Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday began his two-day campaign at poll-bound Gujarat with a visit to the famous Somnath temple, reached out to the Patidar community, and attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his silence on the Rafale fighter jet deal.
Mr. Gandhi addressed an election rally at Visavadar in Junagadh district after offering prayers at the shrine of Lord Shiva in the afternoon in Gir Somnath district.
Referring to the 2015 quota stir in which 14 members of the Patidar community were killed in police firing, Mr. Gandhi said if anyone raises his voice he either gets beaten up or has to face bullets in Gujarat.
“All the communities are raising their voice here against the government. But what do you get if you raise your voice in Gujarat? You are beaten up, you have to face bullets,” Mr. Gandhi said.
Visavdar is a Patidar-dominated constituency in politically crucial Saurashtra region.
“I asked Modiji three questions [on the Rafale deal]. First, is there a difference in the cost of the planes in the first and the second contract [signed with a French firm], please give the reply in yes or no.
“Why was the contract given to a private industrialist friend instead of Hindustan Aeronautics limited [HAL]? And did you seek the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security for the deal?” Mr. Gandhi asked.
The Congress vice-president also sought to know if due procedure was followed before formalising the deal with France last year for procuring the fighter jets.
Mr. Gandhi alleged that the Prime Minister was “avoiding” answering his questions “out to fear” that the “truth” would come out before the crucial polls in his home State.
“Narendra Modiji is not replying to these questions because he wants that the truth of Rafale and Jay Shah [son of BJP chief Amit Shah] should not come out before the people ahead of the Gujarat elections,” he said.
A web portal had claimed that the turnover of Mr. Jay Shah’s firm had seen exponential growth after the BJP came to power at Centre in 2014.
Describing Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani as the “rubber stamp,” he said the government is run by BJP president Amit Shah.
He claimed the NDA government delayed the winter session of Parliament as Mr. Modi was not ready to discuss the Rafale deal and Mr. Jay Shah’s issue here before the Gujarat polls.
“Generally, Parliament’s [winter] session is held every year in November and discussions take place in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. But, due to two reasons, Parliament is opening after the Gujarat polls this time,” Mr. Gandhi said.
He also criticised the Modi government on the issues of farmers and unemployment in the BJP-ruled Gujarat.
The elections to 182-member Assembly will be held in two phases on December 9 and 14. Counting of votes will be taken up on December 18.