Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday slammed Rahul Gandhi for marching with Narmada Bachao Andolan activist Medha Patkar during the Bharat Jodo Yatra, seeking to paint the Congress as anti-Gujarat.
Addressing an election rally in Gujarat’s Rajkot district, Modi said: “A Congress leader was seen walking with a woman who stalled the Narmada project for three decades.”
He did not directly name Rahul or Patkar. Modi termed the Sardar Sarovar Dam over the Narmada river the “lifeline” of arid Gujarat.
“Ask the Congress when it comes to seek your votes that you were holding a padyatra by keeping your hands on the shoulders of those who were against the Narmada dam,” Modi told the rally.
The BJP leader’s attack on Rahul comes ahead of the Congress leader’s visit to Gujarat to campaign for the polls, taking a break from the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
Rahul is scheduled to campaign in Gujarat on Monday for the first phase of the polls on December 1.
Activist Patkar had marched with Rahul earlier this week when the Yatra was passing through Maharashtra. The activist had spearhead the protest against the Sardar Sarovar Dam, alleging it would displace thousands of poor tribals.
Modi said the dam had been stalled for three decades due to legal hurdles created by activists out to “defame Gujarat”.
BJP chief J.P. Nadda and Gujarat party leaders had slammed Rahul over images of Patkar walking with the Congress leader.
Modi renewing the attack on Rahul shows that he is keen to use it as an emotive issue to sway the voters of his home state. Battling accumulated anti-incumbency of 27 years of continuous rule in the state and voter fatigue, the BJP has been desperately looking for an emotional pitch to tide over its perceived governance failures. In the last Gujarat polls, a personal attack by Congress leader Manishankar Aiyar calling Modi “neech aadmi” (vile person) just before voting had been aggressively exploited by the BJP to reap electoral mileage.
In this election so far, Modi and the BJP have not had any such emotive issue, therefore the eagerness to latch on to Patkar joining the Yatra, many believe.
Modi has been leading the election campaign in Gujarat, seeking to pitch the polls as a mandate on his leadership.
He is scheduled to address some 25 rallies for the two-phase polls on December 1 and 5.
He started on Saturday by dashing to Gujarat and holding a rally in the evening after two official engagements in Varanasi and Arunachal Pradesh.