Jamnagar: Rahul Gandhi used a long speech at a public rally in Jamnagar today to remind Narendra Modi that Gujarat was the land of Mahatma Gandhi, who, the Congress leader said, was his "guru in politics." Mr Modi, always game for a war of words, used 140 characters on Twitter to hit back, saying, "If Rahul Baba is walking on Gandhiji's path, why is Bapu's 1 wish incomplete - to disband Congress after Independence?"
For his first show in Gujarat for this month's assembly elections, Mr Gandhi chose a triple rally on the last day of campaigning for the first phase of polling. He came armed with epithets for and accusations against Mr Modi and launched straight into them from the first rally on. "In Gujarat, the people's voice is not heard. The government of Gujarat and the Chief Minister do not want to listen to you. He wants to hear only his own voice. He has his dream and he thinks only about his own dream. ...In Gujarat the assembly functions for only 25 days a year and when it does, the Opposition is thrown out," said the Congress' number two of the man who hopes to be the BJP's number one soon.
It took Mr Modi but a few hours to counter, again on Twitter, "Mr Rahul Gandhi talks of respect for Vidhan Sabha but his own attendance in Lok Sabha between May 2011-May 2012 was 24 out of 85 sittings."
For his second rally, Mr Gandhi chose Sanand, a town Mr Modi likes to show-case as an example of Gujarat's development and investor-friendliness - Tata Motors relocated here from Singur to make the low-cost Nano car. A huge crowd gathered to hear Mr Gandhi, who called the Gujarat Chief Minister a "marketeer" accusing him of false propaganda. "The marketeer says Gujarat is shining. But tell me how many hours people get water? People get water for 25 minutes in every three days. But the marketeer says Gujarat is shining. There are 10 lakh unemployed youth in Gujarat. But the marketer says Gujarat is shining," Mr Gandhi said.
Soon after Mr Gandhi spoke in Sanand, the BJP's LK Advani too campaigned there to praise Mr Modi's development work in the state. In the crowds gathered, many wore Narendra Modi masks and stared back at Mr Advani, cheering his speech.
Many are betting on Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi helming their respective parties and locking horns in a direct clash in the 2014 general elections. But in the Gujarat elections, Rahul Gandhi is conspicuous by his absence on the Congress' campaign posters. Sources say the party has strategically played down the Rahul factor in an election that Mr Modi is widely tipped to win - the Congress would not like Mr Gandhi closely associated with another lost electoral battle after the Uttar Pradesh debacle earlier this year.
Rahul Gandhi's mother Sonia Gandhi and the prime minister have already campaigned in Gujarat. Polling will be held in Gujarat on December 13 and 17 and results will be declared on December 20.