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Lok Sabha elections 2019: In last poll attack, Rahul Gandhi challenges PM Modi for debate

Rahul Gandhi addressed a rally at Solan in support of Shimla candidate Dhani Ram Shandil in Himachal Pradesh.

lok sabha elections Updated: May 18, 2019 08:37 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Rahul challenges PM,Lok Sabha elections,Lok Sabha elections 2019
Congress president Rahul Gandhi addressed a rally at Solan in support of Shimla candidate Dhani Ram Shandil in Himachal Pradesh. (ANI)

Congress president Rahul Gandhi sharpened his attack on prime minister Narendra Modi saying he refused to accept that demonetisation and the imposition of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) were mistakes, on the last day of his campaign for 2019 Lok Sabha elections

Gandhi addressed a rally at Solan in support of Shimla candidate Dhani Ram Shandil in Himachal Pradesh.

In his 45-minute speech that often made the audience laugh, Gandhi said, “The country is saying that demonetisation was a mistake... Three years on, Modi doesn’t accept it was a mistake. If he doesn’t acknowledge the mistake, how will he learn from it?”

Polling for the state’s four Lok Sabha seats will take place on May 19. The BJP, which rules the state, had won all four seats bagging more than 50% of the votes polled in 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Gandhi referred often to former chief minister Virbhadra Singh who shared the dais with him, and said that while he learnt from his elders, the PM had disrespected his mentor LK Advani (former deputy prime minister).

The Congress president challenged Modi to a debate on corruption. “I am ready to engage in debate with Modi on corruption at any place... Give me 15 minutes, I will ask only four questions. And Modi may take three-four hours to answer,” he said.

According to a May 2 tweet by Gandhi, he has conducted 115 rallies in 60 days (the election schedule was announced on March 10). He has attended 12 rallies in the northern states of Haryana, Punjab, and Himachal Pradesh.

Reiterating his allegations of corruption in Rafale fighter jet deal, Rahul Gandhi said the government struck an overpriced deal for the jets to benefit industrialist Anil Ambani. Reliance Defence has denied any wrongdoing in the purchase of 36 fighter jets from the French company Dassault Aviation.

Gandhi further said that Modi has broken his promise for more jobs, minimum support price to farmers and increase in import duty for apples. “After five years, he doesn’t speak about the ₹15 lakh he promised (a 2014 campaign promise made by Modi), import duty (on apples) or even corruption. Unemployment is the biggest challenge and he tells you how he eats a mango,” Gandhi said, referring to an interview that the prime minister gave to actor Akshay Kumar, in which he described his love for the fruit.

Gandhi promised a budget for farmers of the state, and said that farmers won’t be arrested for defaulting on loans if his party is voted to power.

Naresh Kumar of Hamirpur, who claimed to have attended rallies of both Gandhi and Modi, said he believes more in the Prime Minister as he appears to be a stronger leader than the Congress president. “I think Modi will be a better leader for the country,” he said. “Unlike Modi, who did not touch state-specific issues, Rahul spoke about them, especially regarding raising the import duty on apple and setting up food processing plants,” said Surinder Chauhan, 55, an apple grower from Kairi village.

“There is a Modi wave in Himachal and our candidates will win with bigger margin than last time...,” BJP state president Satpal Satti said.

First Published: May 18, 2019 07:24 IST

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