New Delhi: "I have not come here to indulge in revenge politics" — main opposition BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi said on Monday, after storming ruling Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi's political citadel of Amethi in UP, thus breaking an unwritten code of Indian politics of keeping off a rival's home turf.
"Nothing can save the 'mother-son' government, all political pundits will be proved wrong," Modi said, addressing a huge gathering, in a reference to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, accused of calling the shots in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government.
Taking a dig at Rahul Gandhi, the 63-year-old three-time Gujarat chief minister said: "They question Gujarat's development model wherever they go, but do they have the courage to ask what is happening in Amethi. I have not come for the politics of revenge. I am here for politics of change."
He reiterated: "I have not come here to abuse anyone but to share your grievances. So, I have sent Smriti to reduce the problems of Amethi and not to trouble Rahul Gandhi." The BJP has fielded former TV actor-turned politician Smriti Irani against Rahul Gandhi in Amethi.
Modi also came down heavily on Rahul's younger sister Priyanka, who has been campaigning hard for her elder brother in Amethi and her mother in Rae Bareli. "One of the political leaders asks 'who is Smriti Irani'? Their arrogance has reached a new level that they lost thought process," he said.
Boasting of his chances of becoming the next prime minister of India, he added: "They (Congress) have looted the nation in the name of the poor, but they never thought that a chaiwala (tea seller) will challenge them." Modi was a tea seller in his home state of Gujarat, before joining politics.
Modi also jokingly levelled serious allegations against the Congress, saying the ruling party will try to buy votes in Amethi. "Congress cars have left. The cars have a lot of maal (money in Hindi) in them," he said, amid cheers from thousands of people who gathered to get a glimpse of India's most controversial politician accused of keeping mum during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Amethi is a seat held almost solely by the Gandhi dynasty since 1980. And Monday was the last day of campaigning in Amethi, where voting is due tomorrow.
Experts say that though the BJP is expected to do well across the country in the general elections, Rahul Gandhi, despite an anti-incumbency wave in India, is defending a massive majority in Amethi where the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party has fielded poet Kumar Vishwas.
"Rahul Gandhi won over 70 per cent of the votes there in 2009 — the BJP candidate came third with less than 10 per cent. His mother Sonia has previously represented the constituency, as did his father Rajiv, who was PM from 1984 to 1989, before he was assassinated by now-defunct Tamil Tigers. So, Rahul has the edge in Amethi," said Prof R.K. Ghose of Delhi University.
The mammoth nine-phase general elections, which began on April 7, will end on May 12, with results due to be announced on May 16.
Satrajit Moitra - Times correspondent