With Thakor by his side, Rahul Gandhi slams ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ in Gujarat
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi began the first day of his three day tour of Gujarat with a rally in Gandhinagar, in which he welcomed OBC leader Alpesh Thakor into the party. Speaking at the rally, Gandhi launched scathing attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for destroying India's economy with demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
“Don't know what happened on 8 November 2016. Modiji came on TV and said bhaiyo or behno I am your PM and I don't like Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes and I would ban it at midnight ha ha ha,” said Rahul, making fun of Modi.
Continuing his attack, he further added how the prime minister didn't know what happened in the next 2-3 days. “After 5-6 days, he realised he had made a mistake and then he cried and said that if by 31 December the black money in the economy does not disappear, hang me,” he said which was greeted by loud roar from the crowd.
Countering the Prime Minister's claim that Congress was an equal partner in passing GST, the Gandhi scion said, “We brought GST and wanted 18% cap on taxes but Jaitley and Modiji said we won’t listen to the Congress. We warned them but they said no. They said we will do it just like note ban at midnight. Their GST is Gabbar Singh Tax. The entire nation is suffering, small businesses are finished and lakhs have become jobless, but they don't listen.”
When Rahul was about to end the speech, the crowd prodded him to speak on Modi's promise of transferring Rs 15 lakh in every account. Rahul said, “It was a jumla that was made before the election.” He then quoted Thakor and said, “He is saying 2017, BJP ko khatra.”
Earlier, while welcoming Thakor and his supporters into the Congress, Rahul stressed that how for the first time in Gujarat there was a movement in every caste and class. “It is strange that there are movements across the state. It is because for the last 22 years, Gujarat government worked for only a handful of industrialists and not the people.”
He also raised the issue of growing unemployment across the country and how China is India's main competitor. “Either jobs will come here or go there. Whenever you press that button to take a selfie, someone gets a job in China. There are 30 lakh unemployed youth in Gujarat despite Modiji's Make in India programme,” he added.
The Congress vice president did not stop here and raised the issue of the rise in fortunes of Amit Shah's son Jay Shah and questioned the prime minister's silence on it. “Make in India, Start-up India have failed and only one company went up like a rocket,” he said and questioned the audience whether they knew who he was talking about.
The crowd shouted “Jay Shah”. Furnishing details of Jay Shah's company, he reminded the people of Modi's promise of 'na khaoonga, na khaane doonga' . “Jay Shah ko jyaada faayda ho gaya. The entire nation wants to know about Amit Shah's son but Modiji has not spoken a word on it. I want to ask Modiji to respond in one line about these allegations,” he said.
Following the footsteps of former Gujarat chief minister and Congress leader Madhavsinh Solanki, who brought electoral laurels for the party through his KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim) formula, the grand old party is yet again creating a rainbow coalition of different castes to wrest control of the state from BJP which has been in power for the last 22 years.
Working on this formula, Congress is stitching a coalition of Patels, OBCs, Dalits, Tribals and Muslims in order to take on BJP which is for the first time since 2001 contesting elections without Narendra Modi guiding the party.
Congress senses that BJP's state unit is in complete disarray without the prime minister. The Congress is banking on factors like anti-incumbency, Patidar agitation, violent attacks on Dalits and Muslims by cow vigilantes, demonetisation and shoddy implementation of GST to win the Assembly elections.
The grand old party received a huge boost after party vice president Rahul Gandhi on Monday formally inducted popular OBC leader Alpesh Thakor in the party. Along with Thakor thousands of his supporters too joined the grand old party at the Navsarjan Janadesh Mahasammelan at Ramkatha Ground in Gandhinagar.
With OBC's constituting 40% of the state population, their support is crucial to any party that hopes to wrest control of Gujarat. Out of these, 60% are poor and are somewhat disillusioned with BJP for not doing enough for them despite the prime minister himself being an OBC. Rarely in the past have they asserted their political prowess and are expected to do so in this election, which could be detrimental for BJP.
Meanwhile, Congress also has plans to induct Patidar agitation leader Hardik Patel and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani in its ranks but that has not happened as yet. Rahul was expected to meet the two leaders in Ahmedabad in the third leg of his campaign but the two leaders could not make it because of prior commitments. The Congress vice president will be meeting them in the first week of November.
However, sources claim that both Hardik and Jignesh have offered their support to Congress which has come as a huge boost for the party that is desperate to end BJP' rule in the state. The two are expected to campaign for the party in their areas of influence and are expected to have a say in ticket distribution.
Earlier, Congress's state unit president Bharatsinh Solanki had given an open offer to the three young leaders to join Congress in order to defeat BJP. Congress is banking on leaders like Thakor, Hardik and Mevani who have considerable influence over their respective communities. The party is also close to sealing the deal with Chhotubhai Vasava, state unit chief of the Sharad Yadav faction of the JD(U).
Vasava enjoys significant influence over the tribal population in the state and his support to Congress would help the party considerably. Even NCP is expected to have a seat sharing arrangement with Congress. With all these forces coning together, Congress has been successful in creating a grand alliance to take on the saffron party.
Meanwhile, in yet another dramatic development, Hardik's former aide Narendra Patel made a sensational claim and said that he was offered Rs 1 crore to join BJP. Waving notes at a press conference in Ahmedabad, Patel said that he was given Rs 10 lakh and promised Rs 90 lakh to be given later.
Soon after this was reported, Rahul took to Twitter and said, “Gujarat is priceless. It has never been bought. It can never be bought. It will never be bought.” He even raised this at the Navsarjan Janadesh Mahasammelan.
Meanwhile, Nikhil Savani, another former aide of Hardik who had recently joined BJP, quit the party claiming he was upset with these developments. Savani later met Rahul and had a discussion at the hotel where the Gandhi scion was staying.
BJP's popularity in the state is at an all time low with several castes and communities raising the banner of revolt against the party for not giving in to their longstanding demands. If Congress manages to topple BJP's applecart in Gujarat, it would be a huge shot in the arm for the party that has been confined to Opposition benches for 22 years.
These elections are also a test for the likes of Thakor, Mevani and Hardik and only results will tell whether their popularity could translate into votes. Reacting on these developments, a political commentator said, “Voters are dedicated towards BJP despite these issues and it remains to be seen whether these social media campaigns can actually get Congress votes. If it does, we have a great contest ahead.”