BJP crosshairs shift to Rahul in M.P.

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BHOPAL, October 27:  From promoting the personality of Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan vis-a-vis his opponents in Madhya Pradesh, the BJP has shifted gear to bash Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

On October 17, when Mr. Gandhi addressed rallies in Shahdol and Gwalior, the BJP ran half-page advertisements titled, “Questions to the prince on his arrival in the State.” The ad featured Mr. Gandhi’s silhouette wearing a tricolour scarf surrounded by questions, including those on his nationality and education. Interestingly, he wasn’t named in the ad. He was only referred to as Shehzada (prince in Urdu) and not Yuvraj (prince in Hindi), in keeping with the BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s description of the Government of India as the Delhi Sultanate.

For his part, BJP Rajya Sabha MP Prabhat Jha filed a complaint alleging that Mr. Gandhi had violated the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 by talking about rapes of Adivasi women by public officials and representatives, in Shahdol.

Before Mr. Gandhi’s rally in Indore last week, the BJP alleged that the Congress had received Rs. 1.5 crore in black money from its high command to spend on the event and for future horse-trading.

After Mr. Gandhi’s speech about Muzaffarnagar riot victims turning to Pakistani Intelligence, the BJP complained to the Election Commission that he was creating communal disharmony. Indore had witnessed communal tension in August, the party said..

Mr. Jha told The Hindu that “we are hammering” him for, “the MPCC now is the Rahul Congress Committee. It is Rahul and not the local leaders who lead it any more.”

Claiming that the Chief Minister’s “image is good and people know about his welfare schemes,” Mr. Jha asked, “What do you expect us to do if Rahul keeps saying immature things?”But Congress leader Abhay Dubey claimed that crowds dwindled at Mr. Chouhan’s Jan Ashirwad Yatra once the model code for the elections came into force, and the BJP now realised that the perception of its welfare schemes at the grass roots was not good.

“Micro issues,” he said, “win over macro issues in the opposition’s campaign.” Hence, the ruling party was attempting to keep its offensive national.

“We see it in rallies. When we talk of national issues the crowd is silent. But the moment we talk of how the local BJP MLA or secretary has given up his bicycle for air travel, the crowd cheers loudly. Rahul speaks from his heart, and his attacking them on corruption has shaken them,” said Mr. Dubey.

As for the change in the BJP strategy, political columnist N.D. Sharma attributed it to the ascent of junior Power Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia as head of the Congress campaign committee. “The BJP was earlier targeting (former Chief Minister) Digvijaya Singh. But he has retreated into the background and they don’t have anything to say against Jyotiraditya Scindia, who is careful with his speeches, unlike Rahul.”

A leader close to Mr. Chouhan said, on condition of anonymity, that the Chief Minister was not afraid of taking a backseat in the propaganda drive. “The party needs him to run a government. How we recapture power is immaterial as long as we can nullify anti-incumbency against sitting MLAs.”

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