Campaign goes highly personal
On two-day tour of poll-bound Gujarat with a visit to the famous Somnath temple, Rahul Gandhi took a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his emotional exhortations, calling him an “excellent actor better than Amitabh Bachchan”.
Addressing three rallies at Visavadar, Savarkundla and Amreli in the Saurashtra region, Gandhi also reached out to Patidars and attacked Modi over his “silence” on Rafale deal and “proximity” to select industrialists.
Before setting out on the campaign trail, Gandhi offered prayers at the famous shrine of Lord Shiva at Somnath.
“Narnedra Modi is a ‘zabardast’ (excellent) actor, even better than Amitabh Bachchan. Generally, an actor has to put contact lens when he has to weep…His eyes burns and tears roll down. But Narendra Modiji does not need any contact lens for tears to roll down his eyes,” Gandhi told a rally at Savarkundla. However, his visit was at the centre of a raging controversy on after his name was seen to have been entered in a register for “non Hindus” during a visit to Somnath temple. Rahul’s visit to seek Lord Shiva’s blessing at the famous temple flared into a major row as he was put down as a “non-Hindu” along with Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel.Non-Hindus are allowed into the Somnath temple but have to sign a register before doing so. BJP demanded Rahul specify his religious identity while Congress claimed it was a forgery.
The issue snowballed on social media, with #Rahul_Ka_Dharm_ Kya and #SomnathTemple emerging as top trends. Temple authorities distanced themselves from the controversy, insisting that there was no wrongdoing. Somnath temple trustee P K Laheri told media in India, “The Congress media coordinator made the entry for Ahmed Patel and Rahul Gandhi as ‘non-Hindus’. How can we explain it? Congress leaders are best placed to tell why such an entry was made in the register.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a reference to all Gandhi leaders to remind Gujarat of the alleged injustice meted out by Rahul Gandhi, his grandmother and great grandfather. After terming Rahul’s demand for a uniform GST rate as a “Grand Stupid Thought”, Modi referred to the Congress leader’s grandmother Indira Gandhi while addressing a meeting in Morbi in Gujarat. Recalling the Macchu dam flood tragedy of 1979 in Morbi, Modi said he had spent one month working in the town after the disaster as an RSS and Jan Sangh worker. “I remember Indira Gandhi had come here and Chitralekha (a magazine) had printed her photo with a handkerchief over her nose, trying to avoid the stench, while another photo on the same front page had RSS workers carrying bodies,” he said. “Those who have helped us in times of difficulties should be remembered,” Modi added. At his next rally in Prachi, Modi went a generation backwards and targeted Jawaharlal Nehru. He attacked Rahul for visiting the Somnath temple, saying the restoration of the temple was opposed by Nehru.
“If there was no Sardar Patel, the temple in Somnath would not have been possible. Some people are remembering Somnath today and I have to ask them – have you forgotten history? Your parnana (great grandfather), our first Prime Minister, was not happy with the idea of a temple being built there,” Modi said.
Meanwhile Patidar leader Hardik Patel hasrubbished the BJP’s charge that he was a ‘Congress agent’ and said he was against the ruling party in the state as it had failed to create jobs and education opportunities for the youth. Speaking at the same venue from where Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani had addressed a section of Patidars on Wednesday , Hardik said the huge crowd “showed who was more popular”. “Let us show our strength to Vijay Rupani in Rajkot and others in faraway Gandhinagar,” he said. Rupani is contesting from Rajkot West assembly constituency and Hardik decided to hold his first rally at an urban centre in his constituency. This was also his last stop in the whirlwind tour of Patidar homeland rural Saurashtra, where he addressed four meetings during the day