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Gujarat election results will be zabardast, massive undercurrent against BJP, says Rahul Gandhi

On the last day of Gujarat election campaigning, the 47-year-old Congress leader’s 30-minute press conference summed up the issues aggressively raised by him during his yatras and rallies.

assembly elections Updated: Dec 13, 2017 11:25 IST
Hiral Dave
Hiral Dave
Ahmedabad, Hindustan Times
Rahul Gandhi,Rahul Gandhi press conference,Gujarat elections
Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi with the OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, who has joined the party, at a public meeting in Gandhinagar, Gujarat on Monday. (PTI)

Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi predicted on Tuesday a “zabardast” victory for his party in Gujarat, saying a “massive undercurrent” against the ruling BJP will reflect in the results.

All sections of society are angry with the BJP that has ruled the state for more than two decades, he said at a press conference on the final day of campaigning for the second phase of voting on Thursday.

“This is the first time I am seeing all communities are angry with one government. Patidars, tribals, Dalits and backward communities are all agitating. An atmosphere has developed against the BJP here,” he said.

The 47-year-old leader ended his nearly three-month campaign in Gujarat with the 30-minute press conference in which he spoke about a range of issues, including the goods and services tax (GST), demonetisation, unemployment, corruption and farmers’ plight.

“The Congress will win the election....the results will be zabardast,” Gandhi said.

He also criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for accusing predecessor Manmohan Singh and other Congress leaders of conniving with Pakistan to influence the Gujarat assembly elections.

“What Modiji said about former prime minister Manmohan Singh is not acceptable,” he said.

He questioned Modi’s silence on allegations against BJP president Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah, a charge the Gandhi scion raked up repeatedly during his poll rallies, and alleged irregularities in the Rafale fighter jet deal.

Gandhi said Modi left out corruption from his poll speeches and talked “about himself to distract” the people. “It is for the first time in an election that Modiji has not spoken about corruption ... about farmers. There is zabardast undercurrent (against the BJP) … Public mood has undergone zabardast change.”

He repeatedly used the word zabardast, which means tremendous in Hindi.

The Gujarat contest is seen as a prestige battle for Modi in his home state, where a reinvigorated Congress has sewed up a broad social coalition with prominent Patidar, OBC and Dalit leaders in its bid to unseat the BJP.

The final phase of elections will held in 93 seats spread across 14 districts in northern and central Gujarat. The first phase of voting on December 9 for the 182-member House covered 89 seats. The results will be declared on December 18.

Gandhi, addressing his first media briefing after being elected Congress president, said he would strive to change the nature of political discourse in the country that has become “ugly and nasty”.

“Narendra Modiji is my political opponent. He speaks many wrong things about me. But as he is the prime minister of the country, not a single bad word will come out of my mouth for him,” he said.

The poll campaign was marred by personal attacks that reached its peak when Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar called Modi “neech” or lowly. Aiyar was suspended from the party.

On Sunday, Modi sought to suggest that Pakistan was trying to influence the assembly polls in the state, saying some current and former Pakistani officials and Manmohan Singh met at Aiyar’s house over dinner on December 6.

Gandhi attacked the NDA government for delaying the winter session of Parliament.

“Every year, Parliament opens in November. But this year, Parliament is closed. BJP and Modiji are scared that there might be a debate on Jay Shah and Rafale deal,” he said.

He also pitched for “balanced development”, saying the BJP government gives funds and electricity to industrialists but ignores farmers and small traders and shopkeepers.

“We have talked about waiving farm loans and providing better healthcare facilities. The entire focus on the banking system of the BJP is for 10 people. In the last 22 years, you have not supported small traders and shopkeepers of Ahmedabad and Surat,” he said.

Gandhi also spoke about his frequent temple visits during campaigning in the state, which the BJP has been questioning.

“Is it wrong to go to a temple? ... I visit temples often. I visited many temples in Uttarakhand. I visited Kedarnath temple. Earlier, we used to have rallies in Gujarat. This time we had yatras. So, whenever I got time during these yatras I visited temples on our routes. And it feels good,” he said, adding that he prayed for a “golden future” of Gujarat every time he visited a temple.

On his priority as Congress president, he said it is to strengthen the Congress organisation.

“We have taken a big step in Gujarat, which will be seen in elections. My aim is to improve the current political discourse in our country,” he said.

First Published: Dec 12, 2017 18:47 IST