The campaign for the Gujarat Assembly election is showing signs of aggressiveness on the part of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). As there are few local issues on which its principal rival Congress can be cornered in the context of the state, as the saffron party has been in power for two decades, top leaders of the BJP and the state government have taken to targeting individual Congress leaders. BJP president Amit Shah began about a fortnight ago, as the campaign started, with the snide remark that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi would be able to appreciate the “development” work under the BJP in Gujarat if he removed his “Italian” glasses and saw reality through “Indian” lenses.
But sarcasm about Mr Gandhi and his mother’s Italian background appear past their sell-by date. Mr Gandhi was then targeted for visiting a temple, with a Union minister suggesting he didn’t know how to do aarti — a hint of communalism can be seen here. In the past two months, Mr Gandhi seems to have come into his own — and this has been noted across the media, including social media — with speeches, question-answer sessions and tweets. This has prompted devices of all kinds to be slung at the Congress leadership. At a social occasion in New Delhi with journalists on Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself went on an attacking spree, questioning “dynasty” and lack of democratic decision-making in political parties, in an obvious swipe at the Congress as Mr Gandhi is expected to be made the party president soon. The Prime Minister, however, didn’t reflect on the circumstances in which Mr Shah became the BJP president, virtually on his say-so bypassing the party’s top leaders.
The BJP has widened the anti-Congress campaign by seeking the resignation from the Rajya Sabha of Ahmed Patel, Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, on the ground that he had helped appoint an ISIS recruit to a Gujarat hospital of which he was a trustee. Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani led the assault, disregarding the fact that Mr Patel ceased to be a trustee long before the alleged ISIS man was appointed. There also seems a concerted effort to mount a campaign against former finance minister P. Chidambaram on the grounds that by seeking “autonomy” for Kashmir in order to normalise the situation in the state he was asking for the disintegration of India. High-profile Union ministers have led the attack. But what Mr Chidambaram says flows out of Article 370 of the Constitution, without which Jammu and Kashmir would not have acceded to India in the first place. The BJP has not abrogated this Constitutional provision. It is to be regretted that the Congress officially didn’t set the record straight, and chose to say Mr Chidambaram was entitled to his personal view.