On a day Rahul Gandhi disapproved of Union minister Salman Khurshid’s ‘impotent’ barb at Narendra Modi, the Congress decided to take its offensive against the BJP’s PM candidate several notches up by targeting him on the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat and his development claims.
The decision was taken at Thursday’s campaign committee meeting, chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and attended among others by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the party vice-president. There was no reference to the Aam Aadmi Party.
Read: Rahul pulls up Khurshid for calling Modi 'impotent'
Union I&B minister Manish Tewari is learnt to have sought clarity on the “level and extent” of attacks on Modi, arguing that the BJP leader had been going all out against the Congress leadership. “It’s high time we took him head on,” a Congress leader quoted him as saying.
Also expressing concern over India Inc rallying behind Modi, Tewari said, “People talk about crony capitalism these days. About 70% of the corporate sector, which significantly contributed to GDP growth in the past many years of UPA rule, is now supporting Modi.”
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The Congress’ strategy meet, its first, comes less than two months ahead of general elections. The decision to rake up the riots is a distinct shift from its stand during the days after Modi’s victory in the 2012 Gujarat polls, when it decided to focus on local issues. In fact, as soon as Modi was anointed BJP’s PM candidate, the Congress started bringing up Godhra.
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In his last formal press conference in January, PM Manmohan Singh accused the Gujarat CM of presiding over the “mass massacre of citizens”, saying Modi as PM would be disastrous for India. Singh’s remarks were endorsed by Rahul, who in an interview to Times Now the same month accused Modi of abetting the riots.
Read: BJP slams Khurshid for calling Modi 'impotent', says Cong 'frustrated'
However, on Thursday, Rahul objected to the use of the word “impotent” against Modi, saying, “I don’t appreciate this kind of language.” He’d earlier taken offence at party colleague Mani Shankar Aiyar’s “chaiwala” jibe at Modi. The Congress V-P has repeatedly asked party leaders to go after Modi over his role in the riots and his Gujarat development model, while minding their language.
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Rahul will kick-start the party’s campaign on Friday with his mass contact programme in Barabanki, UP. The Congress has also decided to launch a week-long padyatra (foot march) in all Lok Sabha constituencies to highlight the UPA’s achievements before the announcement of poll dates next week. At Thursday’s meeting, a combative Sonia asked party leaders to fight aggressively, saying the coming elections would be “different”.
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