Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday sought to corner the Congress for not supporting a tribal woman, Droupadi Murmu, in the presidential poll and lashed out at the opposition party, accusing it of engaging in vote bank politics, nepotism, sectarianism and supporting "anti-social elements" during its rule in Gujarat.
The PM hit the campaign trail in Gujarat just after a day-long break and addressed rallies in Dahod, Mehsana, Vadodara and Bhavnagar in support of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates ahead of the next month's Assembly polls. Earlier, Modi was in the state for three days - November 19, 20 and 21 - and addressed a series of poll meetings for his party.
What did PM Modi say?
Speaking at an election rally in the tribal-dominated Dahod town of central Gujarat for BJP candidates in the region, Modi asked why the Congress did not support Murmu in the presidential election if the opposition party was so concerned about adivasis.
The PM also referred to Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, without taking his name, and his Bharat Jodo Yatra, which is currently passing through adjoining Madhya Pradesh.
Speaking at a rally in tribal-dominated Mahuva village in Surat district on Monday, Gandhi had accused the ruling BJP of snatching away the rights of tribals.
"A person is conducting a foot-march to get back power. In his speech, he talks about tribals. I want to ask him, why the Congress did not support the BJP's woman tribal candidate in the presidential election? Instead, they fielded their own candidate to defeat her," the PM said.
"Despite Congress' efforts" Murmu became President "with the blessings of tribal people," he added.
"Why the Congress never though of making an adivasi our President? It was the BJP which made a tribal person, that too a woman, our country's President for the first time and sent a message to the world," Modi said.
Murmu, the first tribal to occupy the country's highest constitutional post, had defeated former Union minister Yashwant Sinha, supported by Opposition parties, including the Congress, in the election held in July.
At another rally in Mehsana in north Gujarat, the PM continued his attack on the opposition party and said the "Congress model" meant casteism, division, and vote bank politics which has "ruined" Gujarat and the entire country.
Modi said the Bharatiya Janata Party never endorsed the policy of "favouritism and discrimination" which is evident in youths reposing faith in the ruling party.
"The Congress model means corruption, nepotism, dynastic politics, sectarianism and casteism. They are known for indulging in vote bank politics and creating rifts between people of different castes or even in different districts to be in power.
"This model has ruined not just Gujarat but also India. This is the reason why we have to try hard today to take the country ahead," the prime minister said.
He said youngsters are confident that BJP's policies will create more opportunities for them in the future.
The PM said youths in the age group 20 to 25 years may not even know the kind of hardships faced by the people of Mehsana district in the past, including acute shortage of water and electricity.
"Droughts were also common in those days. We (BJP) had put Gujarat on the path of prosperity amid natural calamities and using limited resources. In the past, water and electricity used to be the major issues during polls.
"Today, the Opposition can't speak on these issues because such issues are resolved by us," said Modi, who served as the chief minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014 before assuming the office of the Prime Minister.
At his third rally of the day at Vadodara, the Prime Minister said the people of Gujarat used to live under fear when the Congress was in power because "anti-social elements" were given protection by the party.
He said during the long Congress rule, riots and curfews were quite common in Gujarat, where the BJP is in power for the last 27 years.
"Today's young generation may not know what was the situation (in Gujarat) two decades back -- riots and curfews were common. Anti-social elements used to terrorise people without any fear. They were given a free hand. That was the Congress' policy. Such elements were given protection by the government," said Modi.
He claimed a similar situation still prevails in states where the Congress is in power at present.
At the fourth election meeting in Bhavnagar, Modi highlighted the importance of "the fuel of the future" green hydrogen and his dream of making Gujarat the world's biggest hub for its production.
He also informed that Vedanta-Foxconn's mega semiconductor plant, announced in September, is coming up in the Dholera Special Investment Region in Ahmedabad district with an investment of Rs 1.5 lakh crore.
"I want to make Gujarat the biggest hub of green hydrogen (in the world). A new eco-system for that sector will come up on Gujarat's coastline, be it in Kutch or Bhavnagar or in Junagadh. Green hydrogen is the fuel of the future. Cars will run on that fuel in the future. The entire world will experience a total transformation," said Modi.
"Both the state government and the Centre have taken initiatives to attract investment in Gujarat and on its coastline for that sector from across the world. We are expecting an investment of Rs 8 to 10 lakh crore for that sector. It will create lakhs of new employment opportunities," he said.
Voting to elect a new 182-member Gujarat Assembly will be held in two phases -- December 1 (89 seats) and 5 (93 seats) -- and ballots will be counted on December 8. A total of 1,621 candidates are in the fray for the 182 seats.
(With PTI Inputs)