Former Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam today kicked off his Lok Sabha campaign along with actor-turned-politician Urmila Matondkar and Patidar leader Hardik Patel by launching a manifesto for the city's youth.
Mr Patel, who headed Patidar agitations in Gujarat before joining the Congress, was scathing in his attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "All his government did in the last five years was question the Congress' legacy and abuse Nehru," he told Congress workers at the event. "But they forget that while the Congress was fighting for Independence, they were siding with the British. This is the party of Vallabhbhai Patel, Subhas Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi."
Electing PM Modi, he maintained, was a mistake. "We sent a Gujarati to Delhi thinking that he will take care of the country, but now it's our responsibility to send him back. I am not from Narendra Modi or Amit Shah's Gujarat. I am from Sardar Patel and Mahatma Gandhi's Gujarat," he said.
The Patidar leader claimed that the Congress will emerge victorious in the polls because it has thousands of silent supporters. "When people asked me what the election results would be like, I replied that it could be the BJP because they are spending so much money. They disagreed, and said I was wrong. They said there are many who support the Congress without being vocal about it," he said.
He said Rahul Gandhi was not somebody who cites his family's sacrifices, such as the assassinations of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, to seek votes. "But look at Modi. He says I'm a chowkidaar (watchman), so vote for me! I used to sell tea, so vote for me! He says vote for me, but I won't do anything for you!" Mr Patel claimed.
Mr Nirupam claimed in his address that the youth have turned against PM Modi. "Sometimes his government calls them the tukde-tukde gang (the BJP's description of separatists), and sometimes, they are harassed. Today, the youth are suffering along with farmers and labourers."
The former Mumbai Congress chief said that the initiatives launched by the centre over the last five years were nothing more than an eyewash. "For instance, 90% of the loans offered under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana come up to just Rs 11,000. How can a young entrepreneur start a business with money this less? Also, PM Modi's demonetisation initiative ensured the closure of many small factories in Mumbai, depriving people of jobs," he added.
He claimed that Congress president Rahul Gandhi has offered an alternative that's much better.
"If you don't have jobs, Rahul Gandhi will ensure that you get jobs. The Congress manifesto says we will fill 22 lakh vacancies at the centre," Mr Nirupam said.
Ms Matondkar, who joined the Congress last month as the Mumbai North candidate, said she doesn't mind being targeted by BJP supporters. "They can troll me all they like, but the party I belong to doesn't believe in such tactics. This is not an election, this is a decision for our future. So we will talk about development," she asserted.