BJP chief Amit Shah took the battle against Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi to his parliamentary constituency on Tuesday, accusing him of neglecting Amethi and failing to see development because he wears “glasses made in Italy”.
Shah, along with information and broadcasting minister Smriti Irani and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, held a rally in Amethi that has elected a Congress member to Parliament for almost two decades.
“Rahul Gandhi, whose party has ruled the country for 60 years, is asking for the report card of the three-year Modi government,” he said at the rally aimed at playing up Irani’s work for the constituency.
The BJP is focusing on Amethi, a dusty town in eastern Uttar Pradesh that Gandhi has been representing in the Lok Sabha for three consecutive terms, and has fielded senior leaders to attack the 47-year-old opposition leader.
The party feels that Irani, who slashed Gandhi’s victory margin by almost 200,000 votes in 2014, stands a good chance in the next elections.
“Changes are taking place in the country. You cannot see because you wear Italian glasses. There will be change in Amethi too in 2019,” Shah said, suggesting a Gandhi-Irani rematch.
Pitching for Irani, he said: “In my 35 years of public life, I have never seen a winner desert his constituency and a runner-up work for it … Smriti Irani comes to Amethi even after losing the Lok Sabha constituency.”
Barring Amethi and Rae Bareli, which is Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s constituency, the Congress did not win any seat in the 2014 general election in Uttar Pradesh.
The BJP has been growing in the Congress bastion since then, winning four of the five assembly seats in Amethi in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh elections.
Rae Bareli and Amethi are among seats in the state where Shah has tasked party workers to expand the BJP’s presence. He identified Amethi as the “most vulnerable” and party strategists believe they could spring a surprise for the Congress in this seat.
Shah asked Gandhi, who has questioned the “Gujarat model” of development repeatedly, about the contribution by the three generations of his family in developing the region.
“Amethi is known all over the world as a Nehru-Gandhi family bastion, but there has been no development,” he said and called the Congress leader a “shehzada”, or prince.
He said the people of Gujarat know what development is. “You just look at Amethi. You have destroyed it.”
For his part, chief minister Adityanath accused Gandhi of being more interested in Italy than Amethi. “Rahul is in Gujarat raising questions on development. But why doesn’t he answer questions of Amethi’s neglect? Over the next five years, UP will become developed like Gujarat,” the monk-turned-politician said.
Union minister Irani raked up an accusation that had attracted a defamation suit.
“A vast stretch of land was given by farmers to build the Samrat cycle factory in Amethi. When nothing much happened, there’s an effort to occupy the land illegally. And despite an eviction notice they are not letting the land go,” she said.
In 2015, Irani alleged that the Congress had usurped the land.
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