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Pushing the Bharatiya Janata Party’s campaign in Gujarat into high gear, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said he was ready to sell tea but would never sell the country.
“You are happy to hug the Chinese ambassador, you are clapping at the release of Hafiz Saeed, you cannot respect Indian Army’s surgical strike... But, why did you speak about it? You could have just remained silent,” he said in Bhuj, targeting Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi.
He also highlighted the differences in approach between the Congress-led UPA government after the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 2008, and that of his government’s after the Uri attack in 2016.
When Saeed, identified by India as the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, was released from house arrest by a Pakistani court, the Congress Vice-President had tweeted: “Narendrabhai, baat nahi bani. Terror mastermind is free. President Trump just delinked Pak military funding from LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba). Hugplomacy fail. More hugs urgently needed.”
Speaking in Jasdan ahead of the first round of polling on December 9, Modi said: “I want to tell them that I am Modi, who is ready to sell tea but will never commit the sin of selling the entire country.”
In another development, Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani on Monday announced he would contest the Gujarat Assembly poll from the Vadagam seat, reserved for scheduled castes, in Banaskantha district as an independent candidate with indirect support of the Congress.
The Aam Aadmi Party also announced its support for Mevani. The Congress has withdrawn its candidate from the seat. Along with Patidar leader Hardik Patel and Congress’ Alpesh Thakor, Mevani has emerged as one of the trinity of youth leaders who have been foremost critics of the BJP in Gujarat.
Unlike several of his recent campaign speeches in Gujarat that were delivered in Hindi, the PM spoke in his mother tongue on Monday. “This Gujarat son has no stains in his public life. You (Rahul Gandhi) come to the state and level baseless allegations on the son of the soil... the people of the state will not forgive you,” the PM said.
“On one side there is ‘Vikas’ (development) and ‘Vishwas’ (faith), while on the other side there is ‘Vanshwad’ (dynasty). Gujarat will never forgive the Congress and this has been the case for long. Congress has never liked Gujarat, has always preferred to see it lag behind,” Modi said.
In New Delhi, Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said the BJP was rattled over the increasing support for the Congress in Gujarat. The Congress released its final list of 14 candidates, besides leaving two seats for its allies, on the last day of filing of nominations for the second phase of Gujarat elections. The party had late Sunday night released its third list of 76 candidates.
The Congress also kept two seats, of Morvahadaf (ST) and Vaghodia, for the Bharatiya Tribal Party, headed by former JD(U) MLA Chhotubhai Vasava, which has allied with the party. Vasava’s party is contesting five seats.
The BJP released its final list of 34 candidates, dropping five MLAs, including a minister, and former chief minister Anandiben Patel. Patel, from Ghatlodia seat of Ahmedabad city, had earlier announced that she would not contest in the election.