Rahul talks fluoride, Modi Sir Creek: Both miss the mark

At his second outing in Gujarat, Rahul Gandhi continued to draw a personal philosophical linkage with Mahatma Gandhi and contrasted the latter with Narendra Modi -  albeit without naming the chief minister even once. But that's in line with the Congress strategy this time, with both Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also targeting Modi without ever naming him.

Rahul played many cards in today's rallies, one of them being the sympathy card. Pointing out that both his grandmother and father had been assassinated by terrorists, he said he still was not "running away" from public life.

The last fight for Gujarat 2012. Reuters

Then he played the aam aurat card, and used the concessions given to the Tatas for the Nano project as evidence. Even as the world admired Modi for getting Ratan Tata to Gujarat from Singur and applauded the idea of the Rs 1 lakh car, Rahul chose to look at the downside. "Have you heard of the Nano car? Every Nano produced takes Rs 60,000 of your money. The money that could have been spent on electricity and water which you never get. Women could have been given better facilities", he said.

Rahul sounded angry, very angry, when talking about Modi indirectly. He said the people's voice could not be heard because one person was engaged only in marketing himself. But then he changed tack and lost his audience. "How much fluoride do you get in water? How much nitrite do you get in water?" The crowd wondered what this was all about.

Aware that he has not gained traction, he shifts to listing the achievements of the UPA - like the Right to Information Act, and the role played by his father in setting off the telecom revolution. "Who gave you mobile phones?" he asked.

His bete noire, Narendra Modi, appears to have heard him 20 km away, where he was campaigning in Sidpur. "Rahul Baba has come. He is neither aware of history, nor geography, nor of any issue." Where Rahul talked of fluoride in water, Modi talked about his water schemes, including drinking water. The crowd cheered his caustic remarks about Rahul - without his barbs, they would have been disappointed.

But Modi had something more on his agenda for today's rally - and here he did not connect. He told the gathered crowd that he would speak in Hindi so that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to whom he had written a letter earlier this week about Sir Creek, could listen directly to the voice of the people. He gave a longish narrative on the importance of the creek for Gujarat and the nation, and how he had information that the Union government was planning to do a deal with Pakistan on Sir Creek on 15 December. The reference was probably to the Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik's visit to Delhi from 14 December.

But Sir Creek did not elicit much response from the crowd, which, after giving him a patient hearing, started getting a bit restless. They apparently wanted to hear more about domestic issues, with constant references to Soniaben and Rahul Baba taking the polemic to a more entertaining level.

But even as Modi obsessed about Sir Creek and Pakistan, Rahul Baba was on a different trip. He told the crowd that if they go to South Africa or Brazil, they should ask Nelson Mandela and Lula da Silva (former President of Brazil) who their guru was. The answer would be Mahatma Gandhi.

The crowds at both the Rahul and Modi rallies would have given comfort to both. While Modi's rally mostly comprised local people, Rahul's had been bused in from some distance away.

At today's rallies, both scored as many misses as hits.

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