|Priyanka in Rae Bareli on Sunday. (PTI)
Lucknow, April 27: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra today went for Narendra Modi’s jugular — or a few inches below that — crystallising an extraordinary battle of repartees in which she has cast herself as the wounded wife, caring sister, pained daughter and the protector of the family legacy.
She said today that one needed “a big heart” rather than “a 56-inch chest” to run the country, renewing a brawl in which the BJP targeted her husband and she compared the party to “befuddled rats”.
“A 56-inch chest is not needed to run this country. One needs a big heart. To run this country one does not need to unleash the cruel force of the government but depend on one’s moral convictions,” Priyanka said at Rae Bareli’s Rajamau village, 87km from Lucknow.
Three months ago, Modi had boasted at a Gorakhpur rally that it would take someone with “a 56-inch chest” to convert Uttar Pradesh into Gujarat.
The BJP today released a CD and a booklet titled “Damaad (son-in-law) Shree”, accusing Robert Vadra of striking corrupt land deals in Haryana and Rajasthan, allegedly under the patronage of the Gandhis. “Someone talks about a big heart. Whose big heart helped Robert Vadra establish his empire in such a short span with an initial investment of Rs 1 lakh?” party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad asked.
Asked why Rajasthan’s new BJP government was not acting against Vadra, Prasad said the various district administrations were gathering facts.
Priyanka reacted by telling reporters the BJP was behaving like “baukhlaye huye choohe” (befuddled rats), and that she would continue to speak against Modi’s “destructive, negative and shameful” politics. “Let Modi say whatever he wants to, I won’t keep silent.”
Asked about the recent attacks on him by Priyanka, who has accused him of humiliating her family, Modi told PTI in an interview despatched today: “It is natural that a daughter would like to defend her mother. A sister would like to defend her brother. I do not have any problems with that.”
Modi, asked how the charges against Vadra would be dealt with if he came to power, said he didn’t believe in the politics of vendetta and that the law would take its course. “But that has to happen in an institutional manner as per due process without interference from any quarter. Such actions should never be guided by political considerations,” he said.
Priyanka has been targeting Modi at meetings in Rae Bareli, her mother Sonia Gandhi’s constituency.
She today trained her guns at Modi’s image as a divisive politician, citing how Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Jains had all laid down their lives in the freedom struggle.
“Dalits and tribals battled for the country’s freedom and sacrificed their lives. This country belongs to you. So it’s your duty to protect the country,” she said. “This is my country as well. The blood running through my veins has a connection with its soil. It’s the dharma of my family to guard its interests.”
At another meeting, Priyanka declined to climb onto the podium. She stood among the audience and spoke to them in a conversational tone: “I am nothing. We are here because of you. I often feel that I don’t deserve to stand on a high podium and lecture you like other leaders. I just want to stand here with you.”
Priyanka, who addressed at least half-a-dozen meetings in Rae Bareli today, will address seven tomorrow, the last day of campaigning before Wednesday’s vote.