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Sunday, Oct 20, 2019

Lok Sabha elections 2019: Gloves off as key seats in heartland go to polls

Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi, who is in charge of the Congress in east UP, launched scathing attacks on Modi for his statement on Rajiv Gandhi, who was killed by a suicide bomber of a Sri Lankan separatist group in Tamil Nadu in 1991.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: May 05, 2019 23:56 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Congress general secretary KC Venugopal said Modi’s remark against Rajiv Gandhi was a display of his “frustration and desperation” after four rounds of polling in the seven-phase election process.
Congress general secretary KC Venugopal said Modi’s remark against Rajiv Gandhi was a display of his “frustration and desperation” after four rounds of polling in the seven-phase election process.(PTI)
         

Congress president Rahul Gandhi and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Sunday slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remark the previous day terming Rajiv Gandhi, their late father and a former PM, as “corrupt no.1”, triggering a fresh war of words that sent the political mercury soaring a day ahead of the fifth phase of the Lok Sabha elections featuring, mostly, constituencies in the heartland.

The Gandhis found support in Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati, who appealed to her supporters to back the Congress over the Centre’s ruling Bharatiya Jatana Party (BJP) in Amethi and Rae Bareli, which go to polls on Monday and from where Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi are contesting. The BSP-Samajwadi Party (SP) alliance has not fielded candidates from the two seats.

Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi, who is in charge of the Congress in east UP, launched scathing attacks on Modi for his statement on Rajiv Gandhi, who was killed by a suicide bomber of a Sri Lankan separatist group in Tamil Nadu in 1991.

“Modi Ji, The battle is over. Your Karma awaits you. Projecting your inner beliefs about yourself onto my father won’t protect you. All my love and a huge hug,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted, a message that also brought back memories of the Congress leader hugging PM Modi in Parliament during a debate on a no-confidence motion against the government in July 2018.

Priyanka Gandhi reminded Modi that “the country never forgives deceit”, and tweeted: “A Prime Minister, who insults the martyrdom of soldiers by asking for votes in their names, insulted the martyrdom of a righteous and noble man in his unbridled eccentricity. Reply will be given by the people of Amethi for whom Rajiv Gandhi gave his life...”

Rajiv Gandhi represented Amethi in the Lok Sabha.

The debate started after Modi, addressing a rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Pratapgarh on Saturday, said Rahul Gandhi, who alleges wrongdoing in the Rafale fighter jet deal and claims the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government benefited only rich businessmen, was trying to tarnish his image.

“Your father was termed Mr Clean by his courtiers, but his life ended as bhrastachari number 1 [corrupt number 1],” Modi said at the event.

The BJP justified the PM’s comment at a press conference on Sunday, with Union minister Prakash Javadekar referring to the Bofors deal of 1986, when Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister.

Union finance minister Arun Jaitley too hit out at the Congress president. “Why is Rahul Gandhi so disturbed if integrity issues of the Rajiv Gandhi Government are raised? Why did Ottavio Quattrocchi get kickbacks in Bofors? Who was the ‘Q’ connection? No reply has come,” he said in a tweet.

India entered a Rs 1,437-crore deal with Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors for the supply of 400 155mm Howitzer guns but a Swedish radio channel claimed several Indian politicians and defence personnel took bribes from the company. In November 2018, the Supreme Court dismissed a plea by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against a Delhi high court order that in 2015 quashed charges against all people accused in the high-profile case.

Congress general secretary KC Venugopal said Modi’s remark against Rajiv Gandhi was a display of his “frustration and desperation” after four rounds of polling in the seven-phase election process. “To use such a repulsive and appalling language against a former PM who received the Bharat Ratna [India’s highest civilian award] and a martyr who sacrificed his life for the cause of the nation is highly condemnable,” he said.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted, “Sorry for my delayed response on this. I was campaigning. The comments made by ‘Expiry PM’ ModiJi against fmr PM Rajiv GandhiJi are very unfortunate. RajivJi dedicated himself & laid down his life for the motherland. I condemn the language used & the audacity of such a statement.”

As the war of words raged, Mayawati asked her supporters to vote for the Congress in Amethi and Rae Bareli. “The BJP and the Congress are alike. We have no coalition with the Congress, but our supporters will vote for the Congress in Amethi and Rae Bareli to defeat the BJP,” Mayawati said in a press note.

Mayawati also accused Modi of trying to create a rift in the SP-BSP alliance. “Ever since we announced our alliance, the Prime Minister has gone into a panic mode...,” Mayawati told the media in Lucknow.

In eastern Uttar Pradesh, Modi continued with his tirade against the Samajwadi Party-BSP alliance on Sunday, a day before the smallest phase of the Lok Sabha elections. Of the 51 seats that will go to the polls on Monday, other than seven in West Bengal and two in Jammu and Kashmir, all seats are in Hindi-speaking states.

At the Bhadohi rally, Modi said, “When bua [Mayawati] and babua [SP chief Akhilesh Yadav] were arch-rivals, then the chief minister [Mayawati] had named a district as Sant Ravidas Nagar. But babua, due to his self pride, removed the name when he came to power... And today, the same bua is seeking votes for the same babua,” he said.

Yadav hit out at Modi saying “the language of the prime minister has changed as in every phase [of the polls] the BJP is trailing”.

“I would like to tell the BJP that the SP-BSP-RLD (Rashtriya Lok Dal) alliance will decide as to who will form the next government and who will be the new prime minister,” he said.

(with agency inputs)

First Published: May 05, 2019 23:48 IST

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