Battle lines drawn as Congress campaigns on Modi’s home turf

Indian Congress President Rahul Gandhi (C) waves to attendees next to All India Congress Committee general secretary for eastern Uttar Pradesh Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (R) and former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a rally at Adalaj, some 30 kms from Ahmedabad on March 12, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 12 March 2019
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Battle lines drawn as Congress campaigns on Modi’s home turf

  • Sonia Gandhi blamed Modi for “playing politics over terror,” referring to the recent altercation between India and Pakistan over Kashmir

NEW DELHI: India’s Congress Party launched its campaign for the 2019 general election on Tuesday in Gujarat — the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Congress Working Committee (CWC) held a meeting in the city of Ahmedabad, before holding a public rally challenging the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Sonia Gandhi, the chair of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) blamed Modi for “playing politics over terror,” referring to the recent altercation between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. Her son Rahul Gandhi, the president of the Congress, said: “It is important to defeat the forces of fascism and divisiveness.”

The CWC was “resolved to defeat the ideology of the BJP, which spreads hatred and anger. No sacrifice is too great in this endeavor. This battle will be won,” he added.

The BJP responded by accusing the Gandhis of spreading discord, adding that their speeches were inspired by hatred and jealousy.

“They espouse the ideology of nationalism. The Congress is bereft and leans on the Left for its ideological spine,” Sudesh Verma, the BJP’s national spokesperson, said.

Modi served as Gujarat’s chief minister for nearly 12 years before becoming prime minister, and has never lost an election there.

In the last assembly elections in 2017, though, the BJP only managed to scrape through on the shoulder of his popularity. Despite its size and organization, it is not as powerful as it was in 2014.

Now, the Congress and other opposition parties are seeking to check the BJP in its strongholds. 

Several analysts have underlined that for all Modi’s “muscular” politics, large sections of the electorate are unhappy with the BJP for the perception that it has failed to follow through on election promises.

But the political journalist Urmilesh Singh believes it will not be straightforward.

“If there is one political party which is well organized, well-oiled and fully prepared to fight elections in India today is the BJP,” he told Arab News.

“The Congress looks like a pale shadow in terms of preparation, despite having the support of a large section of society. Whatever the Congress says, the BJP is playing its nationalistic card to the hilt.”


Sri Lanka police carry out controlled explosion near Colombo cinema

Updated 5 min 21 sec ago
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Sri Lanka police carry out controlled explosion near Colombo cinema

DUBAI: The Sri Lankan defense minister says the police carried out the controlled explosion near Savoy Cinema in Colombo on Wednesday.

There were no explosives in the vehicle, police said.

The Deputy Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene confirmed the details at a press conference in the city.

Meanwhile, a Sri Lankan minister says more than 100 people were arrested in connection with the Easter explosions.

One of the bombers studied in the UK and Australia, the minister added.