Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said the only “vision” of the Congress was to create divisions in communities, while Congress president Rahul Gandhi accused him of dividing the nation, sending the political mercury soaring a day before the second phase of the Lok Sabha elections.
In Maharashtra, the Prime Minister alleged that Gandhi described the people from backward classes as “thieves”, in an apparent reference to the Congress chief’s remarks that linked Modi’s surname with wrongdoers.
In Kerala’s Wayanad, the second seat Gandhi is contesting alongside the traditional Congress stronghold of Amethi, the opposition leader said all that the PM did was “tell lies and steal from the poor people”.
The war of words came hours ahead of voting in 95 seats across 11 states and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
“The Congress and its allies say that all Modis in the society are thieves. The Congress and its allies have not kept any shortcomings in abusing of my backward caste. This time they have crossed the limits and abused the entire backward society,” Modi said in Maharashtra’s Madha.
At a recent rally in Maharashtra, Gandhi questioned the Prime Minister’s clean image.
“I have a question. Why all thieves have Modi in their names — be it [fugitive businessman] Nirav Modi, [former cricket administrator] Lalit Modi and Narendra Modi? We don’t know how many more such Modis will come out,” he said.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar said Modi was raising emotive issues such as caste since there was no development issue left to talk about. On Twitter, he also accused Modi’s government of creating a divide in the society on the basis of caste and community.
In his home state of Gujarat, Modi, who is from the OBC community, said the Congress operated in an ecosystem that worked on spreading “lies” against him and his government — first when he was the Gujarat chief minister and then when he moved to Delhi as the PM in 2014.
Modi also alleged that the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre tried to hurt Gujarat and falsely implicated Amit Shah, now the president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Shah was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in 2010 in connection with the alleged encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Shaikh, a suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba operative, his wife Kausar Bi and aide Tulsiram Prajapati. He was discharged from the case in 2014.
In 2018, all 22 accused in the case were acquitted by a CBI court in Mumbai due to lack of evidence.
Modi also talked about the Balakot air strike targeting a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp deep inside Pakistan, an action that was India’s response to the February 14 suicide bombing of a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama. JeM claimed the attack that killed at least 40 security personnel.
“[They] killed our soldiers in Uri. Should Modi remain silent? Does it make him comfortable? I am raised by Gujarat soil…this is the land of Sardar Saheb [former home minister Vallabhbhai Patel]… Our soldiers destroyed them [terrorists], but it troubled the Congress,” he said, renewing his attack on the Opposition that has asked for the proof of casualties in the February 26 air strike.
In Saurashtra’s Surendranagar, Modi said exporting terrorism was the only objective of “one of our neighbours [Pakistan].”
“Earlier, India used to cry foul in front of the world… But now Pakistan will cry. Didn’t our soldiers attack them inside their homes? You tell me, should we break into the houses and beat them or should sit idle?” he asked.
Modi also said he was not afraid of Pakistan’s nuclear threats. “Earlier, terrorists from Pakistan would come here and go back after conducting an attack. Pakistan would threaten us, saying it has the nuclear bomb and will press the button [if India retaliated],” Modi said. “…I decided to tell them, do whatever you want to do [but we will retaliate].”
Gandhi, who addressed three election rallies in his Wayanad, said the BJP was arrogant and believed that they can re-define Indian history. “Only the Indian people can define, decide about the country. It does not matter that Uttar Pradesh is much bigger than Nagaland. The voice of all Indians matters.”
Taking a jibe at Modi, Gandhi said he was not in Kerala to tell his “Mann Ki Baat”, a reference to a radio programme addressed by the PM. “I am not like the Prime Minister. I am not going to make false promises and tell you I will give you two crore jobs or ~15 lakh in bank accounts or that I will give farmers whatever they want… I am not going to lie to you. Because I respect your intelligence, your wisdom,” Gandhi said.
“I just don’t want to have a relationship for just a few months. I want a lifelong relationship with you. I want the sisters of Wayanad to say that I am like their brother, fathers and mothers to say that I am their son,” Gandhi said.
Kerala BJP leader S Suresh said,” Rahul is so desperate that he is making wild allegations.”
(With agency inputs)
Apr 18, 2021 00:39 IST