New Delhi: As electioneering picks up in Gujarat, Rahul Gandhi has altered his strategy to lay emphasis on local bread-and-butter issues instead of attacking Narendra Modi on ideology and national politics.
This approach evoked an enthusiastic response from the crowds on Wednesday, when he asked the audience about the price farmers were getting for cotton and groundnut - of which Gujarat is among the largest producers.
At public meetings in Visavadar (Junagadh district) and Savarkundla (Amreli), Rahul asked: "What is the price you are getting for cotton?" The people chorused: "Rs 800 (for 20kg)."
Rahul continued: "What did you get during the UPA's time? Rs 1,200. What did Modi promise in 2014? Rs 2,000. Modi said Rs 1,200 paid by the Congress (government) is very low and I will pay Rs 2,000. What happened, where has the money gone?" Thunderous applause followed.
"What price are you getting for groundnut? Rs 600 (for 20kg). What did the Congress give? Rs 1,200. What did Modi promise in 2014? Rs 1,500," the Congress leader said.
"This is the real Modi for you. You have suffered him for so long. I was talking to fishermen the other day in Porbandar. The UPA government used to give an annual subsidy of Rs 300 crore to the fishermen, which was snatched from them. Give us a chance, I will deliver what I promise in 10 days."
The Congress has decided that Rahul will ask the Prime Minister one question every day, while a group of senior leaders will scrutinise Modi's speeches for "false claims" and present the facts in public promptly.
As part of the "question-a-day" series, the Congress vice-president asked on Wednesday: "Modiji promised in 2012 to build 50 lakh houses for the poor in five years. So far, only 4.72 lakh houses have been made. Will he take 45 years more to fulfil this promise?"
Referring to unrest in various sections of society, he said: "This is a state where you ask questions, make a legitimate demand and you are beaten up, bullets are fired at you. Police enter your homes to assault your womenfolk."
Sources said the Congress leader was trying to reach out to the Patidars (Patels) and the Dalits, who allegedly face police highhandedness often. Powerful leaders of both communities have pledged support to the Congress in the Gujarat polls on December 9 and 14.
Senior Congress leaders P. Chidambaram, Anand Sharma, Ashok Gehlot, Randeep Surjewala, Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sushmita Dev have been interacting with the media in Gujarat to counter "false claims". The party's official website and social media team have also been asked to reel out statistics and facts every day.
Sharma went to Gujarat after Modi's first campaign round to respond to the Prime Minister's jibes and meet traders and industrialists in Surat and Navasari. Surjewala has made several trips. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to travel to Surat in the first week of December to speak on the economy and the Modi government's policies.
Referring to the BJP's alleged diversionary ploys, Congress general secretary in charge of Gujarat Ashok Gehlot said: "Modi says outsiders are coming to insult Gujarat's son. What is personal in the battle of ideologies, principles?"
Sharma pointed out how Modi went to Uttar Pradesh and insulted Rahul and Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav, and ran down National Conference leader Omar Abdullah in Kashmir.
Criticising Modi's "obsession" with himself, the Congress asked if debt-ridden farmers, jobless youths, agitated Patidars, tortured Dalits, harassed businessmen and other candidates in the fray were not sons and daughters of Gujarat.