Wikileaks and cricket virtually washed out local issues at high-profile Congress and BJP rallies in poll-bound Assam on Friday.
Heavy showers and strong winds impacted the turnout at public rallies addressed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and BJP leaders LK Advani and Narendra Modi across southern, south-central and eastern Assam.
But that did not stop the heavyweights from wielding Wikileaks and cricket to hit out at each other's parties on the penultimated day of campaigning for the first phase of assembly elections on April 4.
Gandhi fired the first salvo at Neelambazar in southern Assam's Muslim-dominated Karimganj South costituency. "Wikileaks quotes a senior BJP leader as telling some foreign dignitaries how Hindutva is merely an election-oriented talking point for his party, not something to be taken seriously. This underscores the BJP brand of opportunism as well as its flippancy," she told some 2,500 people.
If the UPA chairperson stopped short of naming Arun Jaitley, Advani made an allusion to Wikileaks' vote-for-cash expose on the Congress. Addressing a rally at Khumtai, 400 km east of Karimganj, he reminded voters of the futility of backing a party "that believes in buying votes" only to "get back the money with interest".
The former deputy prime minister, however, quickly switched over to cricket to connect better with his audience. "Like Team India, BJP believes in clean victory. We want our boys to win the World Cup tomorrow as much as we (BJP) want our country to score on development," he said before moving on to Rangapara further east.
Gandhi cashed in on the cricket fever too, choosing Bokajan and Khumtai in central Assam to match Advani's pitch. "The Congress believes in spreading joy like our cricket team. Let us wish them for a repeat of the Mohali show in Mumbai," she said before moving on to local issues such as pease, influx and employment generation.
On the other hand, Modi chose to compare Gujarat under BJP and Assam under Congress. Addressing a rally at central Assam's Lumding town, 224 km southeast of Guwahati, he said: "Congress knows the art of impoverishing a resources-rich state like Assam. Gujarat isn't as endowed, but even our worst enemies acknowledge where we are today," he said.
Friday's rallies were organized across the southern half of Assam where elections would be held in 62 (out of 126) assembly seats. These seats are crucial for both Congress and BJP.
In 2006, the Congress and BJP won 37 and seven out of these 62 seats. Elections to these phase 1 constituencies are slated for April 4.