Its Modi vs Sonia in Guj,as communal card shadows development

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Ahmedabad, Dec 5 (UNI) If the 2002 Gujarat elections held in the backdrop of the post-Godhra incidents had seen a vitriolic Narendra Modi training his guns at the 'Italian bahu' and the minority community, this time round the Chief Minister has been much sober, though still revelling in taking potshots at Congress president Sonia Gandhi during campaigning for the upcoming polls.

Poking fun at the Congress' poll slogan 'Chak de Gujarat', he reminded Gujarati voters that it is not a take-off from any Italian language but from Punjabi.

With 'Soniaben' being Mr Modi's favourite target of attack, he has given the state's Congress leaders a royal miss. The minority community too has been spared from direct assault, unlike last time, when he made such remarks like ''panch ka pachees'' and ''Miyan Musharraf'' among others. Anti-minority sentiment is reflected in his speeches in patches, especially with reference to the Sohrabuddin killing.

Ms Gandhi, this time has taken a lead at attacking Mr Modi personally, calling him a 'maut ka saudagar' (merchant of death'), for protecting those accused of rioting and murder during the post-Godhra riots.

She directly took on him on the Sohrabudddin encounter issue during her campaign trail, while calling him 'jhootha and beimaan'' (liar and dishonest) in another instance.

She in her speech at Jasdan charged the BJP with using names of great Congress leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel, but following the path of Godse.

To this, Mr Modi retorted, ''She being a foreigner has insulted leaders of Gujarat by calling them Godse.'' He also dared 'Soniaben' to hang him to death if he had done any wrong.

''Encounter, encounter, encounter. If she has the guts, she can hang me to death,'' he thundered at a rally in South Gujarat.

He also justified the killing at another rally in Karchelia village of Surat.''To someone like Sohrabuddin who was wanted by police in four states and kept arms and ammunition, you tell me what should have been done to him,'' he asked the crowd, who responded with,''Kill him, kill him''. He showed no qualms about admitting to the encounter in public.

He also accused her of double standards for 'delaying the execution' of Afzal Guru convicted in the Parliament attack case.

''Even after the Supreme Court had sentenced him to death, why has he still not been executed?'' he asked at a rally in Surat.

Initially, the campaign of the BJP began with development as its main plank, but later the communal angle was resurrected, especially with references to Sohrabuddin.

Harping on the industrial progress that the state has achieved during his reign, Mr Modi in his inimitable style asked people to make a choice between 'five years of development' ' or 40 years of 'jhoothi umeed' (false hopes).

Promising a corruption-free governance in a huge pullout, he claimed no one has made or been allowed to make money illegally. ''Na Khaye, na khawa de'' (I don't take, nor do I let others do).

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