Palanpur/Kalol/Ahmedabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi sparred in battleground Gujarat on Monday where the former claimed leaders of the opposition party held a secret meeting with current and former Pakistani officials a day ahead of Mani Shankar Aiyar’s “neech” jibe against him.
Modi claimed there was an attempt by Pakistan to interfere in the Gujarat polls. Alleged Muslim appeasement and the Gujarat riots were also back on the table even as BJP Chief Amit Shah raked up the issue of funding of Congress-backed Dalit candidate Jignesh Mewani by hardline Muslim outfit PFI.
Rahul Gandhi, set to assume the reins of the Congress in a few days from now, amid the acrimony-filled campaign, attacked Modi but promised he would not use even one “galat shabd” (wrong word) against the prime minister, remarks that came in the wake of Aiyar’s “neech” barb that may not have gone down well with a section of Gujarati voters.
Modi also raised questions about the alleged appeal by former director general (DG) of the Pakistan Army Sardar Arshad Rafiq for making senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel the chief minister of Gujarat.
“There were media reports yesterday (Sunday) about a meeting at Mani Shankar Aiyar’s house. It was attended by Pakistan’s high commissioner, Pakistan’s former foreign minister, India’s former vice president and former prime minister Manmohan Singh,” Modi told an election rally at Palanpur.
The meeting at Aiyar’s house continued for almost three hours, Modi said, adding “the next day, Mani Shankar Aiyar said Modi is “neech” (a vile man). This is a serious matter.” “(On one hand) Pakistan Army’s former DG is interfering in Gujarat’s election, on the other, Pakistani people are holding a meeting at Mani Shankar Aiyar’s house, Modi said.
Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala, however, rubbished Modi’s claim, terming it as “baseless”.
“Holding the country’s topmost post, Modiji is making baseless allegations. Modiji is worried, dejected, angry. Such a statement has no truth or fact, and is based on lies. Such a behaviour is unbecoming of a prime minister,” Surjewala told reporters in Ahmedabad.
The prime minister, who did not speak much due to sore throat at the Palanpur rally, slammed the Congress for spreading a “false propaganda” that the Modi government worked only for the rich.
Modi cited the case of Genabhai Patel, a progressive farmer from Banaskantha district who was recently conferred with ‘Padma Shri’, to claim his government’s pro-poor credentials.
Gandhi, who began his second day of campaigning for the second phase of poll scheduled for December 14 after offering prayers at Lord Krishna’s Ranchhod Raiji Mandir here, claimed Modi frequently changed the election planks and now he was left with nothing to speak about but himself and the Congress.
“You claim you have finished the Congress. If it were so, why would you devote half your speech to Congress and half to yourself?” he asked the prime minister.