Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday appealed to people to be wary of those who defame Gujarat as he sought to step up the Bharatiya Janata Party’s campaign for the upcoming assembly elections in the state.
Addressing a rally in Valsad district, the first of eight over three days, Modi said the people of Gujarat have never hurt anybody and embraced whoever comes to the state.
“Be aware of the people who want to defame Gujarat and are speaking against us. They are trying to defame Gujarat and Gujaratis. They are also trying to defame our state in foreign countries,” the Prime Minister said.
While this was his second rally in the district since the Election Commission announced the poll schedule, the campaign blitz over the weekend and on Monday represents the launch of a campaign blitz that the PM often undertakes ahead of crucial elections.
The voting in the BJP-ruled state will be held in two phases, on December 1 and 15. The votes will be counted on December 8.
“Tell them (opposition parties) to stop using such language. The people of Gujarat have never tried to hurt anybody. Wherever they went, they mingled with local people like sugar is dissolved in milk. If somebody comes from outside, they have embraced them,” he said.
Those people who want to defame Gujarat should not find a place in the state, he said. “We can never accept those who try to take Gujarat in a reverse gear,” Modi added.
He also took a swipe at Congress, saying the bill of the current monthly data usage which is ₹250-300 would have been ₹5,000 had Congress remained in power.
“In previous Congress rule, 1 GB data cost ₹300, now it is ₹10,” he added.
The Congress was in power in the state in 1997, when the party joined hands with rebel BJP leader Shankersinh Vaghela’s Rashtriya Janata Party who served as the chief minister from 1996 to 1997.
Gujarat Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said that the after all these years, the BJP is finally acknowledging Congress’s contribution in the telecom and IT sector.
“The revolution in IT and telecom came under Congress’s rule and BJP has finally started accepting this. The licences under 2G were given at a cheap rate by Congress when it was in power at the Centre and hence the prices of mobile data and usage is so low today. Gujarat and Gujaratis are hailed all across the world and all talks of somebody trying to defame Gujarat or Gujaratis is baseless. Instead of making such statements, the BJP should answer about education becoming costlier in Gujarat under its rule, joblessness and distress among farmers,” said Doshi.
Earlier in the day, Modi conducted roadshows in the district’s Vapi city, where he was welcomed by thousands of supporters.
“People ask me that when all surveys, political commentators and even the people, are saying that BJP is going to win big and that it is a foregone conclusion, then why are you working so hard? I can understand their feelings towards me and I can also understand the feelings of people who have gathered here. But as a citizen of this country, it is my duty to go before the people, give an account of the work done in all these years and seek votes as blessings,” the PM said.
“Gujarat has decided to break all records by Narendra and make a new one under Bhupendra (Patel). This is a victory call,” he said. Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014.
Ahead of the Assembly elections, the Prime Minister is expected to participate in at least eight programmes crisscrossing the state from Saurashtra to Surat.
The Prime Minister is scheduled to hold rallies in Gujarat’s Saurashtra for three consecutive days from November 20 to November 22. More than 150,000 people are expected by the party to participate in these rallies.
On November 20, after visiting the Somnath Temple, he is scheduled to address four rallies in the Saurashtra region. Venues have been finalised at Veraval, Dhorarji, Amreli and Botad.
The BJP was not able to win a single seat in these assembly constituencies in Saurashtra in the last assembly elections. The BJP won the state polls but wasn’t able to breach this bastion that has traditionally voted for Congress.
While Bharuch was the constituency of the former Congress leader Ahmed Patel in the past, the BJP state president CR Patil who hails from Navsari has been winning this Lok Sabha seat with huge margins.
Notably, Congress Lok Sabha MP Rahul Gandhi is also expected to visit Navsari on November 21, the same day that PM Modi is expected to be in Navsari.
PM Modi is also expected to have a closed-door meeting with the state leaders during his stay here to further boost the party in the western state.
In Gujarat, the BJP has been in power for the last 27 years with Narendra Modi being the longest-serving chief minister of the state.
This time the party under the leadership of Modi, Amit Shah and CR Patil is aiming to fetch more than 140 seats.
Out of the 182 assembly seats in the state, 48 are in Saurashtra region, where polling is to be held in the first phase itself on December 1.
In the 2017 assembly elections, the Congress won 28 seats here on the basis of the support it got due to the Patidar movement. Whereas, the number of MLAs in the Bharatiya Janata Party had come down from 30 in 2012 to just 19 here.
The BJP’s peak performance in Gujarat came in December 2002 elections under Modi, when the party had bagged 127 of the total 182 seats.
(With agency inputs)