War of words over Gujarat polls: Rahul Gandhi says massive jolt to ruling party while BJP claims he is enjoying defeat

NEW DELHI: The Gujarat poll outcome sparked a political war of words today with Congress president Rahul Gandhi calling it a “massive jolt” to the BJP, drawing ridicule from the ruling party that he was “enjoying defeat as victory” under an illusion.

The BJP win by a reduced margin yesterday also led its key ally Shiv Sena to launch a stinging attack on its senior partner, saying it was a “warning bell” to those who believed in an autocratic rule and that “the much-touted Gujarat model has shaken.” Gandhi also hit out at Modi’s Gujarat model of development, calling it “good propaganda and able marketing”, but which is “hollow from within.” The BJP fought off a strong challenge from Congress to win the Gujarat assembly polls for the sixth straight time since 1995.

The BJP won 99 seats in the 182-member assembly, down from 115 it won in 2012, and far lower than the 150-plus seats it had hoped for. It is also for the first time that the BJP’s tally slipped below the 100 mark since the party formed its maiden government on its own in 1995.

The Congress, spearheaded by Gandhi, won 77 seats, up by 16 seats.

Gandhi also raised questions about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s credibility after he led his party to a narrow victory in his home state.

He claimed the Gujarat results indicated that the country was not listening to Modi any more and took a dig at his Gujarat model of development.

“I came to know there (in Gujarat) that people actually do not accept Modiji’s model.

“It was thought that the Congress will not be able to fight the BJP in Gujarat…You saw the results and it has dealt a ‘zabardast jhatka’ (a massive jolt) to the BJP in Gujarat,” Gandhi told reporters in Delhi.

The new Congress president called the poll outcome a “very good result” and a moral victory for his party. “We lost, but we could have won…but fell short by a small margin.

“A big question has been raised on Modiji’s credibility.

Frankly, Modiji has a credibility problem and he will find it very difficult… Because what he is saying, his forces and his organisation are repeating that.

“But the country is not listening to that. This, the Gujarat election has shown. In the coming times, you will see this clearly,” he said.

Talking of credibility, he said while Modi spoke “non-stop” about corruption, he never uttered a word about Jay Shah (BJP chief Amit Shah’s son) or Rafale fighter jet deal, which the Congress claims was against the country’s interest and encouraged crony capitalism.

“The country wants to know that you talked non-stop of corruption. Jay Shah, son of Amit Shah, turned Rs 50,000 into 80 crore in three months, there has been a scam in Rafale deal, why don’t you talk of this. This is the credibility issue,” he said.

Gandhi said Gujarat sent out a message to the BJP and Modi that the “anger” within them would not work.

The Congress chief, who vigorously campaigned in Gujarat, said in three months the state and its people taught him one thing that one can defeat opponents only with love and brotherhood, and not anger, money or force.

Mahatma Gandhi told this to the country and this feeling is embedded deeply in Gujarat.

“Gujarat has given a message to Modi ji and the BJP that the anger within you will not help you and love will defeat it,” he said.

To a question about Modi’s assertion that the BJP’s win was an endorsement of his development agenda and economic reforms like the GST, the Congress president said, “It is strange as in his poll speeches he did not talk about development, nor about GST and note ban.” Responding to Gandhi’s attack, senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar claimed the poll outcome had actually jolted the Congress.

“We (the BJP) won both state Assembly elections and in Gujarat for the sixth time. Actually this is a jolt for the Congress,” Javadekar told reporters shortly after Gandhi’s attack on Modi and the BJP.

The Union minister also alleged that the Congress tried to adopt divisive politics in Gujarat. However, people put their faith in Modi and in his development agenda, he said.

Javadekar said he was amused to hear that the Congress president had described the results as a big jolt to the BJP.

“It seems Rahul is under the illusion and enjoying defeat as victory. This shows his dynastic arrogance and is an insult to the people’s mandate,” he said.

Reacting sharply to Gandhi’s remark raising questions on Modi’s credibility, Javadekar said it was the Congress which was losing its credibility among the people in the country, because of which, he added, the party was losing election after election.

The Sena attack on the BJP came in an editorial in its mouthpiece ‘Saamana’, The Sena said the BJP had “barely managed to pass” the electoral exam but was pretending to have passed with distinction.

The BJP won Gujarat and Himachal, but the Congress also did not lose, the editorial said.

This election result in Gujarat is a “warning bell for those who believe in an autocratic rule,” the Sena said.