On Modi's turf, Rahul rubs it in

BIG CATCH: OBC leader Alpesh Thakore (left), who joined the Congress on Monday, with Rahul Gandhi in Gandhinagar. (PTI)

New Delhi: The BJP found itself on an unfamiliar terrain in the Prime Minister's home state today with Rahul Gandhi riling it with a bribery allegation and parading an influential OBC leader who had joined the Congress in poll-bound Gujarat.

"The voice of Gujarat can neither be suppressed nor be purchased. Narendra Modi tried to suppress it and failed; now he is trying to purchase it. Modiji, Gujarat cannot be purchased," Rahul Gandhi told a rally in Gandhinagar on Monday.

Rahul drew his ammunition from an allegation by a Hardik Patel aide about a BJP bribe offer, which has prompted the Congress to demand a probe and accuse its rival of using money power to suppress the revolt against its rule in Gujarat.

Narendra Patel, north Gujarat convener of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti whose quota agitation has shaken the BJP, had on Sunday night alleged receiving a Rs 1-crore offer in front of state BJP chief Jitu Vaghani to switch loyalties to the ruling party. The BJP has denied the charge. ( See Page 7)

Narendra held up wads of cash before the journalists, claiming he had been paid an "advance" of Rs 10 lakh at a parking lot, and promised to distribute the money "among the relatives of martyrs of my community".

Rahul made the allegation his main theme at the Gandhinagar rally, organised by OBC leader Alpesh Thakore who joined the Congress at the event.

"Spend one crore, a hundred crore or a thousand crore, use all the money in this world, you won't silence Gujarat," the Congress leader said.

He added: "It is rare to see every section of society embattled; the whole society is out on the streets to protest and fight for its rights."

Referring to Thakore's attempts to calm the raucous crowd down, Rahul said: "Alpeshji, Modiji has tormented them so much that they can't remain silent."

"Gujarat is priceless. It has never been bought. It can never be bought. It will never be bought," Rahul had tweeted before flying off to Ahmedabad to attend the rally.

The Congress demanded an investigation under the supervision of a high court judge.

Aware that he needed to reach out to a broader section and not just the gathered OBCs, Rahul said: "Two more youth leaders are fighting like Alpesh. Hardik Patel and (Dalit leader) Jignesh Mevani. They too represent the youth's voice, the restless soul of Gujarat."

Hardik tweeted: "The BJP has kept aside Rs 500 crore to buy leaders of (the) movement; why these tricks when so much development has been done? People will take revenge for this insult."


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