As the curtains fell on high-voltage electioneering in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, a war of words broke out between the top leaders of the main rivals, BJP and Congress. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a no-holds-barred attack, without naming Rahul Gandhi, described him as ‘moorkhon ka sardaar’ (leader of fools) over the latter’s ‘Made in China’ cellphone remark. In reply, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge described Modi as ‘jhoothon ka sardaar’ (leader of liars).  Modi addressed three rallies in tribal-dominated Betul, Shajapur and Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh. He alleged that Congress leaders who used to hurl five abuses at him in the last nine years, are now hurling 50 abuses a day. Modi particularly objected to Rahul Gandhi’s remark that ‘Made in China’ cell phones are being sold in India, and if Congress comes to power, ‘Made in Madhya Pradesh’ cell phones will be manufactured.

The Prime Minister said, “A mahagyani (wise man) of Congress said yesterday that Indians have only cell phones  marked ‘Made in China’. In which world does the ‘murkhon ka sardaar’ lives? What specs are they wearing that they cannot see that India now exports cell phones worth Rs 1 lakh crore every year? Doesn’t they know India is now the world’s second largest mobile phone manufacturer?” Modi alleged that Congress leaders hate him because his government has stopped corruption that was rampant during Congress rule. He added, “Congress leaders are now fearing that if their lockers are opened, agencies will be find gold instead of potato”, in an apparent jibe at Rahul’s old remark about how farmers can earn gold by raising potato crops and then processing them as potato chips. Modi’s attack was sharp on Tuesday. He said, ‘even Congress leaders have now realized that they are going to lose elections and are now visiting sadhus and babas in search of magic’. Modi’s speeches clearly indicate that he is focussing on two issues: One, corruption during Congress rule, and two, work done by his government for upliftment of tribals.  On both issues, Modi’s personal record has been clean. There has not been a single charge of corruption against him. Even his rivals admit that Modi has put a stop to  corruption to a large extent, and he has given top positions to tribals. On Wednesday, Modi went to Jharkhand to launch Rs 24,000 crore plan for upliftment of tribals. He went on a late night road show after reaching Ranchi. Modi also visited the village of Shaheed Birsa Munda. It was the first time since Independence, that a Prime Minister visited Birsa Munda’s village. Modi’s Adivasi card can yield dividends in Chhattisgarh and MP.

In a rejoinder to Prime Minister Modi, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, while addressing a rally in Sewda, MP, asked voters whether Modi had fulfilled his promise of giving 2 crore jobs a year and doubling farmers’ income. Kharge described Modi as ‘jhoothon ka sardar’ (leader of liars). In Vidisha, addressing a rally, Rahul Gandhi predicted that Congress is going to win 145 to 150 seats in MP. He claimed that “ a storm is going on in MP in favour of Congress”.  The Congress camp is very much enthusiastic about its prospects in MP. State party chief Kamal Nath ran the campaign in a focussed manner and created an atmosphere in favour of Congress. Since the beginning of election process, Kamal Nath’s focus was on local issues and gaining voters’ sympathy because of anti-incumbency factor. But leaders like Rahul Gandhi and Kharge have derailed Kamal Nath’s plan. The state party chief is helpless. He cannot stop Rahul or Kharge from addressing rallies, nor can he ask them not to raise national issues here. Modi’s rallies and roadshows have piled up the pressure. Modi managed to shift the entire focus of MP voters to national issues and has brought a change in electoral atmosphere.
Kamal Nath has not lost hopes. He has not reacted on any of such issues. He is trying to win the elections with the blessings of Lord Ram and Bajrangbali Hanuman. But, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath is spoiling his prospects by telling voters about the new Ram temple that is going to be inaugurated in Ayodhya on January 22. Congress leaders have no answer to Yogi, who addressed rallies in Rewa, Bhind and Chhatarpur on Tuesday. Yogi told voters that “the dream of Hindus of seeing a Ram temple in Ayodhya would never have been fulfilled if Congress had remained in power. We fulfilled our promise to remove the structure (Babri mosque) and build a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya.” Yogi asked voters to support BJP so that the new MLAs could take them for darshan of Ram Lalla in Ayodhya.  “Don’t waste your votes for Congress. Do not carry their burden on your head”, Yogi told the crowd. BJP chief J P Nadda rubbed it in, at his rallies in Ratlam, Narsinghpur and Raisen. Nadda said, “Congress leaders are trying to project themselves as devout Hindus, they are showing off their janeu (religious thread), but people should not forget that it was the Congress government which had described Lord Ram as mythical figure in its affidavit in Supreme Court.” The acerbic chief minister of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma, was more forthright. Sarma told a rally in Chhattisgarh that Gandhi family members are yet to visit Ayodhya to pay respects to Ram Lalla. “Why are they afraid? Are they afraid because Muslims will become angry?”, he asked.  Yogi, Nadda and Himanta raised the Ram temple issue and told voters that Narendra Modi has accomplished what the Hindus had been waiting for 550 years, that is, a grand temple at the birthplace of Lord Ram in Ayodhya.
Home Minister Amit Shah praised MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s 18 years’ rule at his rally in Rewa. Shah said, earlier MP was a ‘Bimaru’ (sick) state, but it goes to Chouhan’s credit that he made MP a ‘bemisaal’ (unparalleled) state. “When Congress was in power, MP government’s annual budget used to be only Rs 23,000 crore, but now it is Rs 3,14,000 crore. If you bless us again, we will make MP the best state in India”, Shah said. Retorting, Congress leader Kamal Nath told a rally in Morena that “Chouhan has converted a progressive state like MP into a ‘chaupat pradesh’ (hopeless state). There is inflation and widespread unemployment. This election is for the future of the state”. On the other hand, the longest serving BJP chief minister of MP, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who is doing a marathon 125 election rallies, promised on Bhai Dooj festival on Wednesday that if re-elected, his government would add names of all women left out from Ladli Behna scheme, and he would make every “sister” (behna) a ‘lakhpati’ (earning Rs 1 lakh).  Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s focus is clear: as ‘Mama’ (maternal uncle), he wants to help women, and is playing the ‘women card’ to the hilt. Out of 5.60 crore voters in MP, women voters account for 2.72 crore, almost half. Shivraj Singh Chouhan knows that if women come out in large numbers and vote, his path to power can become easier.

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