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Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament Nana Patole resigned from the Lok Sabha and the party on Friday, on the eve of the first phase of the Gujarat polls that was marked by spirited speeches by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi. In a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Patole listed 14 issues related to agriculture, economy and unemployment. Patole, who had defeated Nationalist Congress Party leader Praful Patel from Maharashtra’s Bhandara-Gondiya seat in 2014, said he had flagged issues related to farm distress on several occasions with the PM, but was ignored. Patole said he would be sharing the dais with Rahul Gandhi at a Congress’ public rally on December 11. On Saturday, 89 of the 182 seats will vote. The polling for the rest is on Thursday. Votes will be counted on December 18. The BJP released its manifesto for the polls. Among other things, it promised doubling farmers’ incomes and a resolve to herald a new Gujarat. In another development, Dinesh Bambhaniya, a key aide of Patidar leader Hardik Patel, quit the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti. He is the third leader of the outfit to have quit in recent months. Chirag Patel, another key leader, had recently joined the BJP. In public meetings on Friday, the PM persisted with attacking the Congress for insulting him and Gujaratis.
A day after the Congress suspended its leader Mani Shankar Aiyar for his comments on the PM, Modi said: “They have not called me ‘neech’ for the first time yesterday. Sonia Gandhi and her family have used it too. Why am I ‘neech’, because I was born poor, because I am of a lower caste, because I am a Gujarati? Is that why they hate me?”The PM alleged Aiyar had given a “supari” while on a visit to Pakistan to get him eliminated and the video was available on social media. In his public meeting, the Congress vice-president demanded to know why allegations against BJP chief Amit Shah’s son were not being probed. At a poll rally in Chhota Udepur in the morning, Rahul Gandhi said the BJP was yet to release its manifesto and the party had no vision for the future of Gujarat. Rahul said he would not imitate BJP leaders who “abuse” him, and asserted that he would fight over issues that affected the people. Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav said the BJP’s Gujarat model was a model to deceive people. Campaigning in Gujarat for his party’s candidates, Yadav said his party was supporting the Congress and its allies. He said his party was of the view that electronic voting machines (EVMs) needed to be phased out. “The Election Commission has accepted that the EVM can be defective... If it can be mended, it can also be tampered with. At many places, you click on a button, and the vote will go to the BJP,” he said. A day after being suspended from the Congress, Aiyar said he would accept any punishment if the party suffers damage in the Gujarat polls due to his “neech aadmi” remark against the PM.