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Congress vice president hits out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for silence over crucial issues of Gujarat and dragging in Pakistan for electoral gains

With Narendra Modi and his BJP desperately attempting to whip up the familiar ‘nationalist pride’ agenda by claiming that the Congress had tied up with Pakistan to claim power in Gujarat, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, on Monday, dared the Prime Minister to stick to issues of Gujarat while campaigning in the state and respond to his pointed questions.

The Congress vice president, who is scheduled to address four massive rallies in the poll-bound state’s Tharad, Viramgam, Savli and Gandhinagar constituencies on Monday, sought to steer the Prime Minister back towards discussing issues relevant to the people of Gujarat.

The latest broadside by Rahul Gandhi came after repeated, and often outlandish, claims by Narendra Modi at poll rallies in Gujarat wherein he has, so far, alleged that suspended Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar had given his “supari” to Pakistan and that Aiyar along with former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and former Vice President of India, Hamid Ansari had met Pakistani leaders a day before he (Aiyar) made the “neech aadmi” remark against Modi.

While Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesperson Mohammad Faisal responded to Modi’s claims on Sunday by stating that “India should stop dragging Pakistan into its electoral debate and win victories on own strength rather than fabricated conspiracies, which are utterly baseless and irresponsible,”, a former Indian Army chief – General (retired) Deepak Kapoor – who was present at the recent dinner hosted by Aiyar at his residence for former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri – too has come on record to rubbish Modi’s charge. General Kapoor told reporters on Monday that “only India-Pakistan ties” were discussed at the informal dinner and “it had nothing to do with domestic politics” while responding to queries on whether those present at the dinner had discussed the upcoming Gujarat polls and ousting the BJP from the state – as Modi has been claiming.

Rahul Gandhi on his part has sought to stay clear from falling into the trap being laid by Modi. The Congress vice president seems to have learnt that beating Modi on the platform of sectarian or nationalist pride is nearly impossible and so Rahul is sticking to matters of Gujarat.

The broadside launched by Modi against Rahul Gandhi and the Congress possibly relies on his assumption that by raking up anti-Pakistan hysteria, linking the Grand Old Party’s poll campaign with an imagined truck with Pakistan to oust the BJP and reviving anti-Muslim sentiments in the state that witnessed the 2002 post-Godhra riots under his watch and by claiming that a Pakistani Army official wanted Congress leader Ahmed Patel (a Muslim) as the state’s chief minister, he would polarize voters of the state on sectarian lines. The strategy has been a tried and tested one by Modi who has previously employed it in Gujarat to his and the BJP’s advantage in assembly polls since 2002 – each of them ending with a massive victory for the BJP.

The Congress vice president knows that the ‘game’ initiated by Modi is one in which the Congress stands no chance of victory if it plays by the rules being set by the saffron party. Thus, Rahul – who seems to have even deferred his own formal elevation as Congress president to December 16 instead of today (December 11) so that he can focus on the Gujarat campaign – is repeatedly telling the Gujarat electorate through his rallies that he “will not insult the Prime Minister” while underscoring that “Modi and the BJP repeatedly abuse the Congress and its leaders.”

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