Crisscrossing Rajasthan on the last day of campaigning before Friday's elections, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi today locked horns over a slogan that hails the nation. "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" - a signature slogan of the BJP - has triggered much sparring in this round of assembly elections, but until now, neither leader had alluded to it.
Campaigning at Alwar's Malakhera town this morning, Rahul Gandhi used it to underscore his party's allegations of crony capitalism against the government and the Prime Minister.
"The Prime Minister Says 'Bharat Mata Ki jai' in every speech, but works for Anil Ambani. He should begin his address by saying 'Anil Ambani Ki Jai', 'Mehul Choksi Ki Jai', 'Nirav Modi Ki Jai' 'Lalit Modi Ki Jai'," Mr Gandhi said.
"Out of 45,000 crore, 16,000 crore rupees are given to all the elite people of India," Mr Gandhi said. "The hard earned money of farmers is given to the rich through Bima Yojana. This is not Bima Yojana.
This should be called Anil Yojana, Nirav Modi Yojana, Vijay Mallya Yojana," he added in the same vein.
From 200 km away in Sikar, the Prime Minister responded promptly, contending that the Congress chief's remark shows "disrespect for our motherland".
"The Congress has come up with a 'fatwa' that I should not begin rallies with "Bharat Mata Ki Jai". How can they deny this? They must be ashamed of even saying such a thing," PM Modi said.
Mr Gandhi's party maintains that the BJP is hand-in-glove with a group of industrialists and works for their welfare. The BJP has also allowed Mehul Choksi and Lalit Modi, wanted in corruption cases, to slip away, says the Congress -- accusations the BJP has rubbished.
Last week, BJP chief Amit Shah had accused the Congress of being ashamed of saying "Bharat Mata Ki Jai", citing reports that a Congress worker who wanted to raise the slogan was forced to say "Sonia Gandhi Ki Jai" instead. The Congress has denied the reports.
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