Dulapur Khurd (Amethi), May 5: Narendra Modi today forayed into Rahul Gandhi’s constituency and did what no BJP leader had done before: smear the Gandhis on their home turf unmindful of political etiquette.
He put Amethi among the most backward constituencies, accused Rahul and Sonia Gandhi of “deceiving” and “looting” the country, and tore into Priyanka Gandhi’s response of “Who?” to a reporter’s query on BJP candidate Smriti Irani yesterday.
The crowd seemed to lap it up, often chorusing a missing word as Modi halted suggestively.
So far, the Gandhis have enjoyed so elevated a status in Rae Bareli and Amethi that rival parties often refrained from contesting (as the Samajwadi Party has done this time) or ran tepid campaigns without the participation of heavyweights.
Modi breached the unwritten norms, ripping into Sonia for “deceiving” Amethi and India to “nurture her son’s political career”.
“For 10 years, the mother underwent hardships to nurture her son’s political careerÖ. But what happened?” Modi asked. The crowd screamed: “They looted us.”
“All these years,” Modi went on, “the mother-son duo looted and deceived the country in the name of the poor.”
He introduced Smriti as his “younger sister” and a Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat.
“I assigned her the most backward district in Gujarat to use her MP funds. I can proudly say that in a short time, she has turned it around. I thought that this model of development must be used in another backward area. For days I mentally ran through a list of backward places and discoveredÖ.” The crowd chorused: “Amethi.”
He tried to turn against Rahul the Congress vice-president’s allegation that Modi was pursuing the “politics of anger”.
“A nasty, undisclosed truth will have to be told about the family. Are you prepared to stomach it?” Modi asked. The crowd hollered: “Yes.”
Modi referred to how Rajiv Gandhi had “publicly shouted” at the then Andhra chief minister (see chart). He alleged that Sonia had “kicked out” her predecessor as party chief, Sitaram Kesri, “in a fit of rage” and “left him to perish on the footpath”.
Former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao was “denied dignity in death because he had challenged the Gandhis”.
Modi then added a context: Kesri was targeted because he was from a most backward caste (like Modi, apparently).
As for Priyanka’s dismissal of Smriti, Modi rolled his eyes and said: “Look at the Congress’s ego. This leader said, ‘Smriti who?’ You people think you belong to a royal family.”
He referred to the Gandhis’ condemnation of his recent remark that drew on a Kargil martyr’s twist to a cola ad: “Yeh dil maange more.”
“Yes, I want more,” Modi said. “Because Madam Soniaji, your royal family has left poor people like us with no choice but to ask.”
Then came the punch line: “But Madam, we are only asking, we are not looting.”
Which is better, to loot or to ask, Modi asked. The chorused reply: “To ask.”
It seemed the crowd — numbering more than two lakh, according to the police — couldn’t ask for more.