Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi finally landed in election-bound Maharashtra with only five days left for campaigning to end, and launched straightaway into an attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been drawing capacity crowds in the state in a blitz of rallies.
For the 20 Modi rallies planned in Maharashtra – he has already addressed 11 in the last four days – Mr Gandhi and his mother and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi are scheduled to address a total of only four, two of them today.
Speaking in the first at Raigad, Mr Gandhi said, “Pakistan has been repeatedly violating ceasefire. The Prime Minister is saying nothing. Before elections he spoke a lot. It is one thing to say and another thing to take action.”
He also said, “For the first time in the history of India, on one hand the Prime Minister shared a swing with the Chinese President and on the other hand the Chinese Army was entering our land.” Mr Gandhi was referring to the incursion in Ladakh by Chinese troops when China’s president Xi Jinping visited India last month.
In Ahmedabad, on the Prime Minister’s birthday, Mr Modi and Mr Xi were photographed on a decorated swing on the banks of the river Sabarmati.
Rahul Gandhi accused the ruling BJP of reversing changes brought by the previous Congress-led government at the Centre and said, “The BJP thinks one man can run the country… this country progresses because of everyone, not because of one person.”
Mr Gandhi’s late entry into the campaign has raised questions on whether the Congress, which has ruled Maharashtra for the last 15 years, has already given up.
“The BJP does not have leadership at state level. They are trying to mask that fact out by spreading Modi all over. That is telling people that Mr Modi is going to be back-seat driving the Maharashtra government,” said former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. He is seen as fighting a tough and lonely battle as he counters an anti-incumbency sentiment and rebellion in the party ranks, in what has now become a four-cornered contest in Maharashtra for the October 15 elections.
Finances is not one of the problems though, said senior Congress leader Narayan Rane when asked whether a cash crunch had led to a low-key campaign.