NEW DELHI -- Even though his maiden rally was marred by the absence of key allies, Congress Party Vice President Rahul Gandhi launched an aggressive attack against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is the face of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Bihar State Elections.
Addressing a rally in West Champaran on Saturday afternoon, Gandhi mocked Modi's clothes, criticised his polices, and accused him for favouring the rich and powerful over the underprivileged in the country.
"I have said before that this is a suit-boot government, which is not for the poor, and if you look around here then you will find people wearing kurtas or torn clothes," said the Congress Party leader, dressed in a white kurta. "A lot is revealed by the clothes one wears. Modi ji started off as a tea seller, but his clothes have only got better, and now he is wearing 15 lakhs suits."
"Modi ji only meets his suit-boot friends, not the poor and the labourers," he told the crowd at the Ramnagar Maidan. "If a BJP government comes here then two or three people wearing suit-boot will come from Delhi and Gujarat, and they will say that we like this piece of land, chuck out the farmers from here."
Accusing Modi of not fulfilling his promises over reducing high prices and increasing employment in the one year since he took office as prime minister, Gandhi said, "Feku tha...hai."
In his speech, which lasted about 25 minutes, Gandhi also evoked the historical significance of Champaran, where Mahatma Gandhi joined the indigo farmers in their agitation against British rule in 1917. "Mahatma Gandhi started the Congress Party's first battle from here," he said.
The Bihar State Elections over 243 seats will be conducted from October 12 to November 5, and counting day is on November 8.
In a bid to beat the BJP in the upcoming polls, the Congress Party has joined with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) and Lalu Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal to form an anti-BJP alliance. While former rivals RJD and JD(U) will contest 100 seats each, the Congress Party will field 40 candidates.
Kumar and Yadav reportedly skipped the ally because they were busy with seat allotment and selection of candidates, but their absence from Gandhi's first rally was conspicuous and raised questions about the internal dynamics of the alliance.
Observers said that Yadav's relations with the Gandhi family have blown hot and cold, over the years. In 2013, for instance, Gandhi famously tore up the Congress Party-led government's ordinance, which negated the Supreme Court verdict on disqualifying convicted lawmakers, dubbing it as "complete nonsense." The ordinance would have helped Yadav, who was dismissed as a lawmaker for being convicted in a multi-crore fodder scam
His son, Tejashwi Yadav, attended Gandhi's rally today along with JD(U) General Secretary K.C. Tyagi.
On the other side, BJP, which is contesting for 160 seats, has formed an alliance with Dalit leaders Ram Vilas Paswan, chief of Lok Janshakti Party (40 seats), Upendra Kushwaha's, who heads Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (23 seats), and Jitan Ram Manhji, who has secured 20 seats for the Hindustani Awam Morcha.
In a blow to the anti-BJP alliance, JD(U) lawmaker from Raghopur, Satish Kumar, joined the BJP on Saturday.
Interacting with people in West Champaran pic.twitter.com/sMJOQs9hTG— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) September 19, 2015
In his speech, Gandhi also recounted the controversies in which the BJP has been recently embroiled including the Lalit Modi scandal which has ensnared External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, and the Vyapam scam in Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led Madhya Pradesh.
The Congress Vice-President briefly mentioned that his party would help create employment in Bihar, but then he returned to the topic of Modi's clothes. "He wants to wear suits, but we want to adopt the dhoti," he said.
After the speech, BJP's Srikant Sharma called Gandhi a "baby." "He is the baby of the Congress Party. The country does not take him seriously," he told ANI.