New Delhi: The Gujarat election result will be "shocking" for the BJP, Congress President-elect Rahul Gandhi said on Wednesday, maintaining he didn't return Prime Minister Narendra Modi's verbal barbs targeting him and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh because he wanted to change the culture of personal attacks in political discourse.
"Gujarat will this time throw a surprising result. It will be shocking for the BJP. They are scared. BJP workers who talk to our leaders say that the Congress effectively campaigned in Gujarat and their own campaign was not so effective. Even they feel they will not be able to defend their own record," Gandhi told CNN News18.
He, however, avoided a reply when asked if a possible poor showing by the Congress would be considered a referendum on him since he is set to take over as party President on Saturday and was also the star campaigner for the party in the BJP-ruled state.
Gandhi sought an apology from Modi for his attack on Congress leader Manmohan Singh for alleging that he had conspired with Pakistanis to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party in Gujarat.
"That was wrong. If Modiji is Prime Minister, Manmohanji was also Prime Minister. He devoted his life for the country. It is not acceptable. Frankly, he (Modi) should apologize. But that is for him to decide. What he has said is wrong," he said.
He said he won't make personal attacks on his political opponents even if the Prime Minister and the BJP do so daily because "we want to bring about this change".
"The BJP and Modiji indulge in aggressive attacks against me. But I don't retaliate because I don't mind it."
He said the language Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar used to attack Modi was unacceptable to him and the Congress, which acted promptly by suspending the former MP.
"Modiji is the PM of India and we are not going to tolerate this type of language," Gandhi said, referring to Aiyar's description of Modi as a "neech qisam ka aadmi".
In another interview with Gujarat Samachar TV, Gandhi said Modi's criticism had helped him grow "the most" and that "there is zero emotion of anger and hatred in me".
"How can I hate him? If you look at the religion and the history of this nation, love has to be the response to hatred," he said, responding to Modi's repeated attacks on the Nehru-Gandhi family.
"It is the nature of our family. Maybe the legend of Gujarat, Mahatma Gandhi, taught this to our family."
At the same time, Gandhi said Modi had "lost his credibility" and it seemd "difficult that he will regain it".
"The youth had reposed their faith in Modiji. But the trust has been broken. He had promised to create two crore jobs every year. But he doesn't speak about that now. And he doesn't speak a word even about corruption.
"You may have noted that he didn't utter a word when reports about (BJP President Amit Shah's son) Jay Shah and (the French) Rafale deal came in. He doesn't talk about development any more but about himself and the Congress."
The back-to-back TV interviews a day before Gujarat votes in the second and final phase of Assembly elections triggered criticism from the BJP that it violated the model code of conduct.
"It was not permitted to give an interview in the last 48 hours of campaigning in Gujarat. I am sure the Election Commission will take cognizance of this and take action," Railway Minister Piyush Goyal told reporters.
The Congress accused the BJP of using the Election Commission as a tool for political gains.