Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday at a rally in Gandhinagar, Gandhi repeatedly commended Patel quota protest leader Hardik Patel and Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani, two prominent anti-BJP figures whose support is crucial for the Congress to snatch power in the prime minister’s home state.
There was also heightened speculation about whether Gandhi will meet Patel, whose community can influence the results in at least 60 out of the state’s 182 seats, but Hardik’s aides denied any meeting on Monday amid confusion.
The 47-year-old Gandhi, whose campaign received a boost with Other Backward Classes (OBC) leader Alpesh Thakor formally joining the Congress on Monday, also touched upon allegations levelled by a Patel leader that the BJP offered him Rs 1 crore to join the party.
“Hardik, Jignesh and Alpesh will not sit quiet now because their inner voice is not allowing them to do so. No Gujarati can sit quietly now. And Modiji, you cannot buy this voice…even by the money of the whole world,” Gandhi said.
His comments came a day after Narendra Patel, a Patel leader from north Gujarat and Hardik’s former aide, quit the BJP and alleged he was offered Rs 1 crore. In a dramatic press conference, he waved around wads of notes that he claimed the BJP had given him — a charge denied by the party.
Gandhi also criticised the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and called the shock recall of high-value currency notes last November a personal whim of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Goods and Services Tax (GST) has destroyed small shop owners and businessmen…it is a Gabbar Singh Tax,” he said. “What happened on November 8? Modiji came on television and said I don’t like Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. So I have decided to spike them… and by doing that he attacked the whole country by one stroke.”
"Rahul Gandhi creating a drama as if some big leader has joined the Congress,” Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad fumed. “Has your party become so desperate after repeated defeats that you are reducing yourself to gimmicks to make yourself relevant,” Prasad asked.