Will Modi’s ‘rich versus poor’ narrative against Congress have an impact on Gujarat polls?
Gandhinagar, Nov 27: It was only a few days ago when a bunch of young Congress workers from the Indian Youth Congress (INC) decided to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a 'chaiwala' meme posted on Twitter.
The Congress' offensive meme, which denigrates the country's official head, once again tried to rake up PM Modi's humble past when he as a child used to sell tea in the railway stations of his home state, Gujarat, to add to the income of his family.
In 2014, before the Lok Sabha elections, senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar called Modi a "chaiwala" (tea seller), which proved costly for the party as Modi won the polls with a thumping majority.
The crass, classist and anti-poor meme by the members of the INC has clearly backfired as PM Modi has brilliantly weaved the 'rich versus poor' narrative in poll-bound Gujarat.
The Gujarat Assembly elections are scheduled on December 9 and 14. The results will be declared on December 18.
On Monday, Modi launched Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Gujarat elections campaign with a series of rallies in Saurashtra and Kutch. In all the election rallies, the PM's speech focussed on attacking the Congress and reiterating his special bond with Gujarat, Modi's homeland.
While he attacked the Congress for criticising his "reforms" in the economic front, Modi stressed the fact that the Congress was "anti-poor" since the days of former PM Indira Gandhi.
Replying to the poorly-tested meme without referring to it, Modi said, "The Congress dislikes me because of my poor origins. Can a party stoop so low? Yes, a person belonging to a poor family has become the PM. They do not fail to hide their contempt for this fact. Yes, I sold tea but I did not sell the nation."
As he warned the Congress "not to mock his poor origins", Modi attempted to voice the concern of the economically deprived people of being neglected for more than seven decades since the country got independence.
"I request the Congress not to mock the poor and my poor origins," the PM stated.
In Gujarat, Modi decided to target the Congress by attacking the party's strongest leader ever, Indira Gandhi. He also called the former PM "anti-poor".
"Overnight, Indira Ji removed Morarji Bhai (Morarji Desai) from the Cabinet. She didn't open doors of the bank for the poor. When we got the opportunity to serve, the thing we did was to start the Jan Dhan Yojana and focus on financial inclusion," Modi said in Surat, where small-time traders and businessmen are openly expressing their anger against the Modi government over the demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
The PM alleged that the Congress disapproves of the demonetisation as it has brought down corruption and flow of black money.
"The Congress is unhappy about the demonetisation. They keep attacking me but I want to tell them...I have grown up in the same land as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. I will ensure that the poor get their dues. We will not allow this nation to be looted," he added.
"I am grateful for all the kichad (muck) being thrown at me, after all, a lotus blooms only in muck, so, I don't mind if more is thrown at me," he stated, indicating that the Opposition's attempts to tarnish his image over the demonetisation and the GST are futile.
Modi with his razor-sharp criticism alleged that the "arrogance of the Congress party is at a record high".
"They don't realise that times have changed. Things are very different in Gujarat from the time they ruled here 22 years ago. Society is no longer divided, there is progress now."
"Our efforts against corruption have naturally troubled the Congress," the PM added.
Again in Surat, where Modi and the BJP are facing open opposition from the voters, attacked the Congress.
"After campaigning in Kutch, Rajkot, and Amreli districts, I have come to Surat. I am seeing energetic response from people. I also see that the Congress is scared of defeat and unable to match the BJP's focus on development and good governance," said the former chief minister of Gujarat.
In his Rajkot rally, Modi spoke about the Congress' alleged dubious distinction of "pitting one caste against the other". "It is the Congress' tendency. Make sure that you do not let them destroy the composite culture of Gujarat," he said while urging the voters to elect the BJP.
"The solution to all problems is development. Development has to be continuous. We want to work even more for the people of Gujarat."
Praising Modi and his love for the poor people as he himself comes from a humble family, the PM's cabinet colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad in the national capital said, "The PM understands poverty and poor. The Modi government is working for the poor."
Upset over the PM's allegations that the grand old party is "anti-poor", senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge called Modi an "expert in marketing".
"Modi is an expert in marketing. When a person holds a post, discussions are done on his performance and not on his economic status. He is saying such things to gain sympathy ahead of the elections."
Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said that the PM knows very less about history.
"The Congress abolished the Zamindari system. The PM has relations with big industrialists but not poverty. They (the BJP and the PM) have not made any decision in the favour of poor. He has the habit of commenting on the Congress. We will send him a book on the Congress to study," added Sharma.
Sharma tried to remind Modi that former Congress PM Lal Bahadur Shastri belonged to a poor family.
"Manmohan Singh came as a refugee and was from a poor family too. The PM must recall Indira Gandhi's slogan of Garibi Hatao. She nationalised banks so that poor can get money easily," he added.
If on the one hand, Modi made the best use of the chaiwala meme to construct the "rich versus poor" narrative in poll-bound Gujarat, on the other hand, the PM spoke passionately about his love for Gujarat.
"Ye maati meri maa hai zindagi laga doonga iska karz chukane mein (This land is my mother, I will spend my whole life paying my debts to my motherland," Modi said.
"We are not here for power, we are here for the 125 crore Indians. We want to take India to new heights of glory," he added.
The PM added that "Gujarat is my soul and mother. My relationship with you is that of equality since you call me brother", highlighting the cardinal truth that Modi is the "son of the soil" and he understands the pulse of his voters well.
Modi has often spoken against the Gandhi dynasty and the Congress' "elitist" attitude. This time, however, for the upcoming Gujarat polls, the Congress served Modi the best subject to target the grand old party--the never-ending division between the rich and the poor--which all politicians talk about but hardly anyone does anything to end the blot on the Indian democracy.