Sheela Bhatt in Anand
The Congress party on Monday launched its election campaign in Gujarat by taking a swipe at Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party's communal agenda.
Present at the campaign launch at Anand were All India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge of Gujarat, Kamal Nath; political advisor to the Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Ahmed Patel; Gujarat unit chief of the Congress, Shankersinh Vaghela; former chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki and leader of the opposition Amarsinh Chaudhary.
Though it was a low-key launch and the energy that one expects from a national party going into a crucial election was missing, Vaghela more or less made up for it with his fiery speech.
"The election of December 12 is not a fight between the Congress and the BJP. This is an election of human values. In this election, Gujarat will decide whether compassion has any place in the society. This election, no doubt, will decide the Congress party's future. But, more importantly, this election will decide the future of the people of Gujarat," he said.
Taking Narendra Modi head on, Vaghela said Hindu culture was not the monopoly of any one party. "We are Hindus. Who are these BJP leaders? What kind of Hindu religion they follow? We don't want Hindu religion that snatches a child from a womb," he said and added "Hindu religion was there before the BJP was born and it would survive their death."
The former Gujarat chief minister alleged that Modi had tried hard to hide the identity of Alla Rakha, a policeman who died while fighting terrorists in Akshardham temple, just because he was a Muslim.
"Gujaratis want a riot-free Gujarat, they want roti, they want electricity and they want development," he said.
Objecting to Modi's claim to the legacy of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Ahmed Patel said: "Even a thousand Modis will not be able to separate Sardar Patel from the Congress."
He said the BJP was rightly requesting people to not elect a government that would be pro-Pakistan. "Do not elect the BJP...it is the most Pak-friendly party," he said.
"The BJP handed over terrorists [involved in IA hijacking] to Pakistan. Defence Minister George Fernandes gave Pakistan a clean chit in the wake of the Kargil intrusion. The National Democratic Alliance government's failure at Agra only helped Pakistan. And now Modi and his party have brought terrorists to the doorstep of Akshardham," Patel said.
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