Gujarat: A Prestige Battle for Congress and BJP

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Gujarat is the first major state where it is going to defend its citadel. Rahul, much more experienced now, has been targeting BJP’s development model taking potshots at a sluggish economy, poor implementation of GST and growing unemployment

The stage is set for a battle royale in Gujarat. By all appearances it is going to be a fight to the finish between the ruling BJP and a resurgent Congress with Rahul Gandhi leading the Grand Old party’s charge against its enemy number one. The Congress, it seems, is mounting a serious challenge against BJP for the first time since the last general elections.

Since 2014 the BJP has wrested Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh from its rivals but Gujarat is the first major state where it will be defending its citadel. Rahul, much more experienced now, has been targeting BJP’s development model taking potshots at a sluggish economy, poor implementation of GST and growing unemployment.

The BJP state government has responded by announcing projects worth nearly Rs 11,000 crore including zero interest loan for farmers, salary hike for teachers and municipality employees, and reimbursement of 18% GST charged on drip irrigation equipment.

Not long ago in August, Congress had looked down and out in Gujarat when Shankarsinh Vaghela had deserted its ranks reducing its tally of MLAs in the state assembly to 43. The party has bounced back by eliciting the support of some key caste leaders in the state like Alpaesh Thakor.

No doubt that Gujrat is going to be a prestige battle and not willing to take chances the state government has decided to loosen its purse strings ahead of the polls. State’s BJP Chief minister Vijay Rupani has declared a waiver of interest on farm loans and Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who keeps visiting his home state tore into the Congress at a rally accusing the Opposition party of being ‘anti-development’ and focused on dynasty, corruption, communalism and casteism. “The Congress has historically been biased towards the Gujarat leaders and perpetrated atrocities on them,” he said.

BJP President Amit Shah gave a call to “weed out” the Congress and questioned Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi’s claims on development. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, accused the Opposition of creating obstacles in the BJP’s efforts for development, the way the demons disturbed the saints’ “yajna” in earlier times. “While other parties believed in dynasties, muscle or money power, the BJP derived its strength from its dedicated workers.”

Without naming the Congress, Modi lambasted it for “stooping low”, losing the capacity to think positively, fomenting negativism, and being biased towards Gujarat leaders, be it Sardar Patel, his daughter Maniben, Morarji Desai or even its own senior leader Madhavsinh Solanki who had to resign in the Bofors controversy.

He accused the Congress of failing to complete the Narmada project just because Sardar Patel had conceived it, and charged the Opposition party of being “shameless, abusive and a liar”.Challenging the Congress on the issue of “Vikas”, Modi cautioned the people not to be “misled” on this. “The Congress has invented this issue as it has no other poll plank. If the Congress was right, why did a quarter of its MLAs leave it recently?”The war of words between the two parties is likely to intensify as the campaign progresses. It is going to be a riveting contest to watch

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