regular-article-logo Tuesday, 06 June 2023

Gujarat: Congress focuses on crises vs ‘victim’ PM

Party wary of Narendra Modi’s ability to hijack elections by stirring up emotions

Sanjay K. Jha New Delhi Published 24.11.22, 03:50 AM
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi walks in the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh, on Wednesday.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi walks in the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh, on Wednesday. PTI

The Congress has unwaveringly stuck to livelihood issues in Gujarat, weaving its campaign around jobs, LPG price, farm distress, paper leaks, narcotics and privatisation of health care and education, wary of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ability to hijack elections by stirring up emotions.

After senior leader Madhusudan Mistri gave an opening to the Prime Minister by one indiscreet remark — “Modi ko auqat dikha denge (Will show Modi his place)” — the Congress has asked the campaigners to strictly avoid making personal remarks and discuss people’s core concerns instead.


Modi had latched onto Mistri’s solitary barb to recall how Congress leaders habitually abused him, without explaining his own track record of viciously attacking political rivals.

The Congress leaders are extremely cautious now, restricting themselves to breadand-butter questions and highlighting the promises they have made to the people of Gujarat.

In his speeches, state Congress chief Jagdish Thakor expresses a sense of outrage at Modi accusing the party of insulting Gujarat instead of explaining to the people what the BJP has done during its 27-year stint in government.

Thakor then refers to 30 instances of paper leaks that have put the students preparing for jobs at great disadvantage, the price rise and the Congress promises such as loan waiver for farmers, LPG cylinders at Rs 500 apiece, subsidy of Rs 5 to milk producers on every litre, and 3,000 English-medium schools.

Another senior leader, Shaktisinh Gohil, strictly keeps the focus on mundane issues, asking the voters about the prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas, paper leaks, old pension scheme and the rise in contractual government jobs under the BJP.

He attacks the BJP government for the Morbi bridge collapse and failure to deliver on promises and takes care to explain the “duplicity” of the Aam Aadmi Party, calling it a B-team of the BJP.

The rhetorical flourish comes from young Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, who has been attacking the BJP for communal politics, a perceived corporate nexus and corruption.

Mevani said at a public rally on Wednesday in Banaskantha in the presence of Thakor: “The character of the BJP, which does politics in the name of Lord Ram, was exposed in the Bilkis Bano case. A pregnant woman was gangraped, her child was murdered along with several of her family members (during the 2002 Gujarat pogrom), but the convicts were released from jail and felicitated with sweets and garlands.”

Mevani thundered: “Forget catching the kingpin of drug cartels, BJP leaders aren’t even ready to appeal to the youth not to slip into drug addiction. This is the time to get rid of the enduring pain. If you want gas cylinders for Rs 500 apiece, vote for the Congress. If you want a cylinder for Rs 1,100, vote for the BJP. If you want lakhs of crores in loans to big industrialists written off, vote for the BJP. If you want the loans of the poorest farmers waived, vote for the Congress. If you want to spend lakhs of rupees towards medical bills and education, vote for the BJP. If you want good government hospitals and schools, vote for the Congress.”

Asked if there was a conscious plan to avoid falling into the BJP trap of emotive issues, a senior Congress leader said: “You give Modi an inch and he snatches a mile. We all know how he turned the election last time by exploiting Mani Shankar Aiyer’s ‘neech aadmi (lowly man)’ remark. He has been trying this trick from the very outset this time as the BJP’s situation is weak. On one hand, the BJP tries to encash a normal international development of India becoming the G20 host by projecting it as Modi’s personal achievement, on the other, the Prime Minister himself seeks public sympathy by crying about abuses being hurled at him.”

Modi, who never fails to hype up his robust leadership, played the victim card a few days ago by recalling how Congress leaders abused him, calling him “maut ka saudagar” and other derogatory terms.

He lamented that nobody talked about development. Ironically, Modi himself has devoted a lot of time on campaign trail criticising the Congress.

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