A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Gujarat, fresh sparks flew in the poll-bound state as Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Monday targetted the BJP-led Centre and state governments and went after Modi.
He was addressing a rally which marked OBC leader Alpesh Thakore formally joining the Congress as part of its strategy of broadening its political and social base to take on the long-ruling BJP.
On allegations of BJP 'bribing' Patidar and OBC leaders
Amid a rousing welcome and massive crowd, Rahul attacked Modi and the BJP while latching on to the bribery allegations made by Narendra Patel, an activist of the Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS).
Narendra, within hours of joining the BJP, alleged Sunday night at a press conference that he was offered Rs 1 crore by the BJP and was given a token amount of Rs 10 lakh, a charge rubbished by the saffron party.
"This Gujarati voice is not an ordinary voice. This voice of Gujarat cannot be silenced or suppressed. You can offer anything, (Rs) one crore, (Rs) 10 crore, (Rs) 50 crore, (Rs) 1,000 crore, entire budget of India, entire money of the world, (but) this Gujarati voice cannot be purchased," Rahul said.
"Even Hardik, Jignesh Mewani (Dalit leader), cannot remain silent. They too have a voice. And this is no ordinary voice. It cannot be suppressed or bought.
"In the past also, there were attempts to suppress this voice. British tried to suppress Gandhiji, first in South Africa, then in Gujarat and India. But the voice of Gujarat drove out that superpower from the country," he said.
"Sardar Patelji, Rahul were from this land and they used to protect the voice of Gujarat," he said. "But today this (BJP) government wants to suppress Gujarat's voice. They are so scared that they want to buy the voice," Rahul alleged, adding "Modiji, there is no price tag for this voice. Modiji you cannot purchase Gujarat's voice."
In his 30-minute speech, Rahul said, "Every caste is agitating here, I am surprised that everybody is agitating here. They are tired of false promises of the BJP government."
On Modi's economic policies
Rahul also mounted a scathing attack on the Modi government's economic policies. He criticised the Goods and Services Tax (GST) as 'Gabbar Singh Tax' that he said has hit hard the country already nursing the wounds of demonetisation.
"Ye jo inka GST hai, ye aam aadmi pe bojh hai... Ye GST nahi, ye Gabbar Singh Tax hai," Rahul asserted.
Rahul said that Modi imposed demonetisation last year on a personal whim, pushing lakhs of people into distress. And if this was not enough, he introduced the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in a tearing hurry, the Congress vice-president added.
"The GST was brought by the Congress, but there was a ceiling of 18 percent and did not have five slabs like the present. We requested the government to go slow, but they just would not listen," Rahul said.
He called the Modi government anti-poor and said it was working against the interests of the common people.
"The entire Gujarat is today caught in restlessness. There is not a single section of the society here that is not agitating against the government over one issue or the other."
"What happened on 8 November? Modiji came on television and said I don't like Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. So I have decided to spike them from that midnight. Hahaha," Rahul said, mocking the prime minister. "And by doing that he attacked the whole country by one stroke," he added.
"For the first two or three days days he too did not understand what has happened. And in a concert in Mumbai he announced 'I have done this'.
"But after five-six days he realised he made a mistake. Then again he appeared on television and said if I don't end the menace of black money by 30 December, then hang me."
Rahul asked farmers in the crowd if they buy seeds and fertilisers from their mobile phones and with cheques. The crowd replied with a booming 'No'.
"He destroyed the entire economy. He did not stop there but went ahead with the GST.
"GST was our thinking. We brought it, it was a thought of single tax of 18 percent across the nation with less forms to be filled."
Rahul also attacked Modi's "Make In India" slogan, saying Chinese goods had swept India.
"Should employment go to China or come to India? Most products you use have the label Made in China. Whether it is a shirt, cameras or anything else. When you click selfies or press a button for a picture, a Chinese youth gets employment.
"In Gujarat alone there are 30 lakh unemployed youth. Every day 30,000 people across the country enter the job market. But only 450 people get jobs."
During Rahul's speech, Thakore asked the crowd to be silent and listen to the Congress vice-president's speech. At this, Rahul said, "You want to make the crowd silent Alpeshji? But they cannot remain silent. Modiji has harassed them so much that they cannot remain silent."
The rally was organised by Thakore and his supporters. "There are thousands of youths in Gujarat who cannot remain silent now. They belong to all castes. There are two more youths like you (Thakore) - they are Hardik (Patel) and Jignesh (Mevani, a Dalit leader). Both of them cannot remain silent," the Congress leader said.
Modi, on a visit to Gujarat last week, mounted a stinging attack on the Congress and the Nehru Gandhi family, saying they disliked Gujarat and Gujaratis who were an "eyesore" for them.
On Jay Shah's business dealings
Rahul also did not leave an opportunity slam BJP president Amit Shah on the issue of alleged business deals of the his son Jay Shah. Amit and Jay have denied any wrongdoing.
"Modiji gave long lectures in Gujarat (during his recent visits), but has not spoken a single line regarding the company of Jay Shah," Rahul said. "Modiji Make in India has failed. Only one company has benefited from the Make in India programme. The company was worth of Rs 50,000 and not made any progress till 2014. But
after 2014 it grew to Rs 80 crore," he said.
"Modiji just speak one sentence about it. You had said that you will not indulge in corruption and would not allow others to do it, then what is this?" Rahul asked.
Last Saturday, Thakore met Rahul in New Delhi and later announced that he would soon join the Congress. The Congress has been wooing leaders of various communities like Hardik Patel, Mevani and Thakore. The party is inviting them to join hands with the aim of expanding its base by securing the support of Patels, OBCs and Dalits, and dent the BJP's poll prospects in its stronghold.
Congress is 'Drameybaz party No 1'
The saffron party, meanwhile, mocked the Congress and termed Thakore joining the Congress and bribe allegation against it "a mere drama".
Calling the Congress a "Drameybaz Party No 1" for presenting Thakore's entry as "an achievement", Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the OBC leader had earlier fought panchayat elections on the party's ticket.
He also said the Rs 1 crore bribe allegation against the BJP by Patidar leader Narendra Patel, an aide of Hardik Patel, to join the party was also "a part of the drama".
"There have been many films in the past with title 'No 1' such as 'Jodi No 1', 'Dost No 1', 'Aunty No 1'. Today, I am giving Congress party a new name, 'Drameybaz Party No 1'," Prasad said during a press conference in Delhi.
"And why should not I be calling this? Because the drama Congress is holding over joining of the big leader who was a NSUI member once? He also fought Mehsana panchayat election on Congress' ticket and lost. Even, his father was a district head of Congress. So when was he (Thakore) out of the Congress?"
He took a dig at Rahul for not doing his homework.
"Earlier, I would say Rahul did not do homework. But now I will say even your script writers do not do it. Had it been done today, you could have saved yourself from the drama of the achievement (Thakore's entry)," he said.
Prasad said Congress was frustrated due to being out of the power in the state, which led the party to reduce itself to "such gimmicks" to remain relevant.
The minister also said the Congress had "stooped to a low level" of politics due to desperation to win the Gujarat elections.
Prasad said the Gandhi scion has not learnt lessons from his past experiences.
The Congress has been out of power in Gujarat for the past 22 years.
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Updated Date: Nov 24, 2017 16:46:51 IST