Probably the strongest critic of BJP’s Prime Ministerial nominee Narendra Modi could never have imagined that the latter would storm the home turf of Nehru-Gandhi family–Amethi and over shadow even the ‘son-of-the-soil’, Rahul Gandhi by taking him in his own den.
Hours before Modi’s addresses, people from far-flung villages started gathering at the venue in Amethi. The Congress bastion virtually turned saffron because of the BJP flags and caps worn by thousands of people and banners flying high.
Taking a jibe at Priyanka Gandhi’s comment on BJP’s candidate from Amethi, Smriti Irani (“Smriti-who?”), Modi said, “Look at their arrogance. Priyanka posed as if she doesn’t know who Smriti is. She’s my younger sister. In a democracy, in public life, royal families are not supposed to ask such questions. I decided to send her to the most backward district in UP, and found it was Amethi.”
Modi challenged Rahul and his ‘entire family’ to have a public debate with Irani. “If Irani will name 100 villages in Amethi, they will not be able to name ten.”
Promising to transform Amethi constituency in 60 months, Modi who spoke for more than 45 minutes said he had come for a politics of change (Badlaav) and not revenge (Badlaa). He tore into Rahul’s claim that he was not able to do all he wanted because another party ruled the state. He challenged Rahul to show those letters written to Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party governments asking them to help him in improving the condition of Amethi. “It’s again a blatant lie. Nothing has been done for this constituency,” he added.
Modi virtually turned the crowd gathered to listen to his address into a state of mass frenzy. When he asked the people “Dilli mein kaisi sarkar chahiye (What kind of government you want in Delhi)?” Prompt came the reply – “Modi sarkar”. To this he again asked, “I asked what kind of government and not whose government.”
The response that Modi’s rally got in Amethi was unexpected and unprecedented.
“We’ve never seen such a mob-frenzied rally of a non-Congress party in Amethi. Modi has won the hearts of the people of this constituency,” said 50-year old Virendra Shukla, a local from Amethi. A group of local youth who were cheering for Modi said that Rahul despite being an MP from Amethi and his home turf, failed to address the problems of the youth like education, employment etc.
Referring to Rahul’s allegation that he practiced ‘politics of anger’, Modi cited the incidents when after the death of former PM, PV Narsimha Rao, the Congress president Sonia Gandhi didn’t allow his cremation in Delhi. “Narsimha Rao faced a similar fate that of Bahadur Shah Zafar”. He also told the crowd how the veteran treasurer of Congress Sitaram Kesari was dumped outside the Congress office by Sonia’s loyalists.
“It was Rajiv Gandhi who as a Congress general secretary visited Andhra Pradesh and was so angry with the State Chief Minister who came to receive him that he abused the CM in public. The latter was reduced to tears. So, who practised the politics of anger?” asked Modi. Modi’s one-on-one connect with the public received an over-whelming response. Till then Smriti Irani who seemed to be just another contestant, turned into a strong one posing threat to Rahul Gandhi’s candidature.
The impact of the rally was that Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, for the first time in 10 years, spent whole polling day in the constituency roaming here and there. The restlessness was visible on his face throughout the day and he even told mediapersons, “There is a long-term relationship here and it’s a very deep relationship” and Modi’s May 5 rally did not pose any challenge to him and will not impact the results.” He was so much disturbed that he even objected to a lotus sketched on a blackboard in a polling centre in Phulwa village in Tiloi. Not only Rahul, even the Congress managers were seen stressed and they almost found the seat losing. That is why there are reports that, as also AAP candidate Kumar Vishwas complained to the EC, rigging was reported at certain booths.
Debobrat Ghose , (The writer is a Delhi-based journalist)