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Turf war intensifies: Rahul Gandhi, Amit Shah trade barbs from each other’s citadel

Amit Shah, Smriti Irani and Yogi Adityanath held rallies in Amethi, the constituency of Rahul Gandhi. Meanwhile, Gandhi is on a two-day visit to Gujarat.

india Updated: Oct 12, 2017 11:58 IST
Hiral Dave and Manish Chandra Pandey
Hiral Dave and Manish Chandra Pandey
Hindustan Times, Vadodara/Dabhoi/Amethi
Rahul Gandhi,Bharatiya Janata Party,Dalits
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi addressing a gathering at Vadodara and BJP chief Amit Shah in Amethi on Tuesday.(Combination photo/Agencies)

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah took their political battle to each other’s bastions on Tuesday, exchanging potshots on corruption and development ahead of two state elections.

Gandhi addressed young people, women and Dalits in Vadodara as part of a two-day march crisscrossing Gujarat, a state that sent Shah to Parliament and is a BJP citadel. The state, along with Himachal Pradesh, is expected to go to the polls this year.

Shah, along with information and broadcasting minister Smriti Irani and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, held rallies in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi that has elected a Congress member to Parliament for almost two decades.

“Rahul Gandhi, whose party has ruled the country for 60 years, is asking for the report card of the three-year Modi government,” Shah said during a rally aimed at playing up Irani’s work for the constituency.

He also said the Congress leader couldn’t see development because he wore “glasses made in Italy”. “You have reposed faith in one family for 60 years, you won’t regret if you give the BJP and Narendra Modi a chance.”

The BJP is focusing on Amethi, a dusty town in eastern Uttar Pradesh that Gandhi represents in the Lok Sabha, and has fielded senior leaders to attack the 47-year-old opposition leader. The party feels that Irani, who slashed Gandhi’s victory margin by almost 200,000 votes, stands a good chance in the next elections.

“Rahul Gandhi has never visited the Amethi collector’s office even after being elected as the MP from here. Smriti Irani comes to Amethi even after losing the Lok Sabha constituency...,” Shah added.

BJP national president Amit Shah with Union I & B minister Smriti Irani, UP chief minister Yogi and UP BJP chief Mahendra Nath Pandey during a public meeting for the launch of several development schemes in Gauriganj, Amethi on Tuesday. ( PTI Photo )

For the Congress vice president Gandhi, Gujarat is a battleground state where the BJP is facing an irate Patel community and angry Dalits and farmers. Gandhi spoke at length about women’s empowerment and hit out at the government for fewer jobs and slowing growth, a common theme in his speeches in recent weeks after the economy decelerated to a three-year low of 5.7% in the quarter ended June.

Claiming that initiatives such as Make in India and Start up India failed to create jobs, Gandhi told students, “You people enjoy taking selfies. But when you do so, the jobs are generated in China and not in India. The Modi government has no focus on generating new jobs.”

He also attacked the BJP for paying what he said was only lip service to women’s empowerment. “Have you seen any woman in shorts at the RSS shakhas? That shows their mindset. Their claims of women empowerment are hollow. The moment women tries to raise voice, it has been suppressed.”

At his first stop of the day in Karjan, Gandhi took a swipe at Shah, whose son is in the news for filing a Rs 100 crore defamation case against a website over a story on his company. “The BJP’s slogan has changed to Amit Shah ke bête ko bachao (save Amit Shah’s son) from Beti Bachao (Save the girl child). And, this has happened under the nose of Modiji. Modiji calls himself chowkidar (watchman). Where is this chowkidar?’’.

Congress party vice president Rahul Gandhi presented with a garland during a public meeting at Bodeli in Gujarat’s Chhota Udaipur district on Tuesday. ( PTI Photo )

Later in Vadodara, Gandhi also brought up the murder of Bengaluru journalist Gauri Lankesh last month. “Do you know why Gauri Lankesh was shot dead? She was shot dead because they want you to live in fear.”

The concluding leg of Gandhi’s Navsarjan Yatra covered central Gujarat that used to be a Congress bastion till the 2002 elections that were held in the backdrop of communal riots that killed more than 1,000 people.

“When the UPA was in power, crude oil cost $140 per barrel, which has reduced to $50 now. But has this benefit passed on to you? Is petrol cheap now?” he asked the audience in Dabhoi. The crowd chorused, “No”.

To the east, the BJP kept up a high-octane attack against Gandhi in Amethi, where the saffron party won six out of 10 assembly seats in the last Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.

Shah asked “shehzada” Gandhi, who has questioned the ‘Gujarat model’ of development repeatedly, about the contribution by the three generations of his family in developing the region.

“We have given a Prime Minister who speaks ... Amethi is known all over the world as a Nehru-Gandhi family bastion, but there has been no development,” he said.

Adityanath also trained his guns on Gandhi and accused him of being more interested in Italy than Amethi. He ridiculed the Congress leader by saying that while “all-round development” had been ushered in by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gandhi was still asking what had been done in the past three-and-a-half years of the NDA regime.

“Rahul is in Gujarat raising questions on development. But why doesn’t he answer questions of Amethi’s neglect? Over the next five years, UP will become developed like Gujarat,” the monk-turned-politician said.

Irani accused Gandhi of doing little to develop Amethi.

“This state was once ruled by the Congress and the Gandhi clan has been representing Amethi for long. Now is the time for them to answer the people on why there has been no development,” she said.

(with agency inputs)

First Published: Oct 10, 2017 19:15 IST