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It's Modi vs Sonia in Gujarat as both sides raise election pitch
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December 05, 2007 15:00 IST

If the 2002 Gujarat elections held in the backdrop of the post-Godhra incidents had seen a vitriolic Narendra Modi training his guns at the Italian bahu and the minority community, this time around, the chief minister has been more sober, though still more than willing to take potshots at Congress president Sonia Gandhi while campaigning for the upcoming polls.

Poking fun at the Congress's poll slogan Chakde Gujarat, he reminded Gujarati voters that it was not a take-off from any Italian language but from Punjabi.

With 'Soniaben' being Modi's favourite target of attack, he has given the state's Congress leaders a royal miss. The minority community too has been spared from direct assault, unlike the last time when he made remarks like panch ka pachees among others. Anti-minority sentiment is reflected in his speeches in patches, especially with reference to the Sohrabuddin killing.

This time, Gandhi has taken a lead at attacking Modi personally, calling him a maut ka saudagar (merchant of death) for protecting those accused of rioting and murder during the post-Godhra riots.

She took him on directly on the Sohrabudddin encounter issue during her campaign speeches, calling him jhootha (liar) and beimaan (dishonest).

In her speech at Jasdan, she charged the Bharatiya Janata Party with using the names of great Congress leaders like Mahatma Gandhi [Images] and Sardar Patel, but following the path of Nathuram Godse.

Coverage: Gujarat Elections 2007

To this, Modi retorted, 'She, being a foreigner, has insulted the leaders of Gujarat by calling them Godse.'

He also dared Soniaben to hang him to death if he had done any wrong. 'Encounter, encounter, encounter! If she has the guts, she can hang me to death,' he thundered at a rally in south Gujarat.

Modi also justified the killing at another rally in Karchelia village of Surat. 'To someone like Sohrabuddin who was wanted by police in four states and kept arms and ammunition, what should have been done to him,' he asked the crowd, who responded with chants of 'kill him'. He had no qualms about admitting to the encounter in public.

He also accused Sonia Gandhi [Images] of double standards for 'delaying the execution' of Afzal Guru who was convicted in the Parliament attack case. 'Even after the Supreme Court had sentenced him to death, why has he still not been executed?' he asked at a rally in Surat.

Initially, the BJP's campaign began with development as its main plank, but later, the communal angle was resurrected, especially with references to Sohrabuddin.

Harping on the industrial progress that the state has achieved during his reign, Modi, in his inimitable style, asked people to make a choice between 'five years of development' and '40 years of jhoothi umeed (false hopes)'.

Promising a corruption-free government, he claimed no one has made or been allowed to make money illegally. 'Na Khaye, na khawa de (I don't take, nor do I let others do),' he said.

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