The much-underdeveloped town of Amethi was virtually 'Modi'fied on Monday as Narendra Modi took his electoral battle into 'enemy' territory, so to speak, to challenge his Congress counterpart (as in PM-hopeful) Rahul Gandhi. Though the gladiator from Gujarat repeatedly asserted in his 55-minute speech that "I am not here to say bad things about the Gandhi family", he tore into them mercilessly, making the speech perhaps his most caustic one against the Gandhis in this entire election campaign.
The Gujarat CM was here to campaign for his "younger sister" and famous TV 'bahu' Smriti 'Tulsi' Irani, as the campaign was about to end for the fifth round of election in UP to be held on Wednesday. In her rousing speech, Irani said Amethi was about to witness a "historic" outcome.
Modi was in an unsparing mood from the word go. In fact, he even brought up the late Rajiv Gandhi's name as he drove nail after sharp nail into the Nehru-Gandhi family's image. Modi was replying to the Gandhi family's barbs that he had been indulging in politics of anger.
"They say I use politics of anger. I ask them, what was Rajiv Gandhi doing when, as a party general secretary, he insulted veteran Congress leader and then Andhra CM T. Anjaiah? Is such anger in democracy justified?" he asked, getting a resounding "no" as the answer from the huge crowd.
Modi didn't stop at that. "Madam Sonia Gandhi, who continued to say for years that she did not want to join politics, suddenly decided to become party president. On her orders, then Congress president Sitaram Kesri was physically thrown out of the AICC headquarters," he said. Continuing his salvo against Sonia, he said: "Madam did not allow the body of ex-PM PV Narasimha Rao to be taken to the Congress office in Delhi for 'antim darshan'. She did not even allow his cremation to held in Delhi. Isn't that anger politics?"
In the same vein, he trained his guns on Rahul, saying: "He tore up an ordinance drafted after a cabinet decision, calling it 'nonsense' in a press conference. He directly insulted PM Manmohan Singh who was abroad then."
Modi also railed against Rahul charging him with ignoring his constituency which he has represented for the last 10 years. "For the last 40 years, the Gandhi family has fooled the people of Amethi. Even basic amenities like good roads, water and electricity are missing. Girls' schools do not even have separate toilets for them. Is this their idea of development?" he asked.
The Gujarat CM mocked at Rahul, saying whenever he is asked about Amethi's problems, he just passes the buck, saying the state government is not co-operating. "Who are you trying to fool Rahul ji?
Everyone here knows that the Samajwadi Party (ruling UP) has not even put up candidates in Amethi and Rae Bareli, and you say that you are not on good terms with them," he remarked, drawing a round of applause.
He also took umbrage to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's reported remark "Who is she?" when reporters asked her about Smriti Irani. Without naming Priyanka, Modi said: "Their arrogance is on the seventh sky. They have even forgotten basic courtesies."
Why is Smriti contesting from Amethi?
Modi also revealed how Smriti Irani landed up in Amethi to challenge Rahul Gandhi. He said Irani, a Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat, had done a "fabulous job" in developing one of the most backward villages in Gujarat. "So, I wanted to send my younger sister to the most backward district in UP. I studied many backward districts in UP, and see what a co-incidence, it turned out to be Amethi," he said in an obvious bid to mock at Rahul's performance as an MP.