Amethi: BJP leaders including party President Amit Shah on Tuesday launched a concerted attack on Rahul Gandhi, questioning his work for the development of his constituency Amethi and asking voters to defeat him and the Congress in the next Lok Sabha election.
Addressing a public meeting, Shah spoke for around half hour but made no mention of the charges levelled against his son Jay Shah, whose company reportedly recorded a turnover of Rs800 million (Dh45 million) in 2015 after recording an amount of just Rs50,000 the previous year.
“You have trusted the Gandhi-Nehru family for 60 years. You put your trust for once in the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, you will not regret,” he told the people of Amethi, where the BJP won four of the five assembly constituencies in the last Uttar Pradesh assembly polls.
Gandhi on Tuesday stepped up his attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the alleged business dealings of Shah’s son Jay, asking him if he was a “partner” in the “theft”.
He also criticised Union ministers and BJP leaders who defended Jay Shah, saying they should change the name of the government’s flagship scheme for the girl child — “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” — to “Amit Shah ke bete ko bachao”.
“A theft has taken place in front of the eyes of the chowkidar [watchman], but you are silent. The question is are you a watchman or a partner?,” Gandhi said, attacking the PM.
The Congress leader was addressing a gathering here in central Gujarat on the second day of his campaign tour of the BJP-ruled state, where the assembly polls are due by the year-end.
At his public meetings during the 2014 Lok Sabha campaign, Modi used to say he did not want to become the prime minister but ‘chowkidar’ of people’s wealth.
News portal ‘The Wire’ has reported that a firm owned by Jay Shah saw a huge rise in turnover after the BJP came to power at the Centre in 2014.
“The company was formed six to seven years ago. Modi ji came [to power in 2014] and launched ‘Start up India’, ‘Make in India’. He then introduced demonetisation and GST. This destroyed small businesses and farmers,” Gandhi told the gathering as he continued his assault on Modi and Shah for the second day running.
“From this fire, one company comes up. It was nothing in 2014, but in a few months the company became so big that its worth [turnover] rose from mere Rs50,000 to Rs800 million,” he said.
“Who gave loan to it?” Gandhi asked and then himself replied, “It was a Central government department under minister Piyush Goyal ji.”
The company closed down in 2016, the 47-year-old Congress leader said.
He also wanted to know why has the prime minister not spoken on the issue so far.
Jay Shah has filed a criminal defamation suit against the web portal over the report in a court in Ahmedabad.
The Congress has demanded a judicial inquiry into the matter and ouster of Amit Shah as the BJP chief.
The BJP has rejected the charges against Jay Shah, who has termed the report as “false, derogatory and defamatory”.
Gandhi also criticised the state government over the issue of high debt.
“The debt of Gujarat has reached Rs2 trillion. Despite taking so much debt for development works, there has been no improvement in the condition of farmers and the poor,” Gandhi said.
He targeted the BJP government on the issues of demonetisation, job creation, GST and the “failed” Gujarat model of development.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and union minister Smriti Irani, who lost to Rahul Gandhi in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, also attacked Gandhi, questioning his commitment to the development of Amethi, a Gandhi family bastion for decades.
Describing Gandhi as “Shehzada [prince] of Congress”, Shah said the Congress leader can’t see the development work done by the Modi government as he wears Italian glasses.
“He [Rahul] is seeking answers from the Modi government for its performance of last three years but the people of Amethi are seeking answers from the three generations of Gandhi family which has ruled from panchayat to Parliament in the last 70 years.”
Shah said while Amethi had been a VIP constituency for decades, why there was no Collectorate office, TB hospital, FM centre of All India Radio and houses for the poor.
Referring to Gandhi’s presence in Gujarat, Shah said: “There are two development models in the country. One is Gandhi-Nehru model while another is Modi model. In Gujarat there is 24-hour power supply, drinking water in every house, a good public health centre in every tehsil.”
Similarly, he said, after the BJP took power in Uttar Pradesh, development had picked up pace. The government had written off farmers’ loans and given away nine lakh houses for the poor.
“I can assure you that Uttar Pradesh will become a developed state like Gujarat. There is Yogi in UP and Modi in Delhi. This jodi [pair] will together develop the state fully.”
He said the people of Gujarat know what development is. “You just look at Amethi. You have destroyed it.”
Shah said the Centre had initiated a number of schemes for the poor, Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Caste, youth and farmers. “There are 106 schemes initiated by this government. Rahul Gandhi will not be able to even count them.”
Referring to the surgical strikes on terrorist hubs in Pakistan-administered Kashmir last year, Shah rhetorically told Gandhi: “You cannot even see it because you wear Italian glasses. Changes are taking place in the country. There will be change in Amethi too in 2019.”
Yogi said the Congress can never do development work for the country as it had no vision.
Irani accused Gandhi of paying lip service to development. She said the Congress leader was making fun of development in Gujarat but had no answer for the lack of it in his own backyard in Amethi.
“This state was once ruled by the Congress and the Gandhi clan has been representing Amethi for long. Now is the time for them to answer the people why there has been no development,” she said.
Irani accused Gandhi of failing the people of Amethi and cheating the farmers by grabbing their land through the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.
“A vast stretch of land was given by farmers long back for construction of the Samrat cycle factory. When nothing much happened, there is an effort to occupy the land illegally and despite eviction notice they are not letting the land go.”