Ahmedabad: Cyclone Ochki may have poured cold water on the campaigning in Gujarat, which is to end soon in areas that are going to polls on Saturday. But amid it, Rahul Gandhi had a curious complaint -- one redolent with the heartwarming flavours of Gujarat.
Gujarat, he told a rally in Anjar, was responsible for making him overweight, Mr Gandhi said. And the explanation: "My sister (Priyanka Gandhi Vadra) visited me last night. She observed, 'your kitchen is full of Gujarati goodies. Khakra (a roasted snack), pickles and Mungfali (peanuts)'. So you are giving me bad habits and making me overweight".
Mr Gandhi's acknowledgement to the Gujarat effect on his taste-buds is a first. So far he has mostly focused on the policies of the BJP government at the Centre and the state, attacking the flagship Goods and Services tax, demonetization and the lack of attention towards agriculture - accusations expected to appeal to the small traders and farming community the party hopes to draw to its side.
In this election, he is also using feedback from ground level, that is finding its way into his speech.
The Congress has been out of power in Gujarat for 22 years, and this election, the party hopes to capitalize on what it claims is the people's discontent against the BJP rule.
But the introduction to his kitchen is also seen as an extension of the slow re-branding of the leader, whom critics had called a reluctant politician and accused him of lacking leadership skills. Over the past weeks, Rahul Gandhi has revealed that he is a devotee of the Lord Shiva, visited numerous temples irking the BJP, introduced netizens to his pet dog Pidi and released photos of himself practicing Aikido, a form of Japanese martial arts. His closeness to younger sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is already well-known.
The 47-year-old is set to take over the reins of his party after being elected unchallenged in its internal polls. The nomination process ended yesterday.
In Gujarat, Rahul Gandhi has crafted an alliance with Hardik Patel, the face of Gujarat's Patidar agitation for quotas in jobs and education and has vowed to bring about the defeat of the BJP. He has also roped in other caste leaders, like Dalit leader Jugnesh Mewani and Alpesh Thakor, a leader of the Other Backward Castes.
Anjar in southern Kutch, which votes on Saturday, is home to a large number of Scheduled Castes and Tribes with a sprinkling of Muslims. Rahul Gandhi's rally there today was only one of his scheduled four that could take place. After his chopper failed to land in Morbi due to the Cyclone driven strong winds, the subsequent rallies at Dhrangadhra and Surendranagar were cancelled.