Rahul attacked, heckled in flood-hit Gujarat

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Ahmedabad/New Delhi, Aug 4 (PTI): Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Friday faced protests in flood-hit Gujarat where alleged BJP supporters hurled a cement brick at his car and showed him black flags, forcing him to cut short his address at a gathering and leave in a huff.

The glass pane at the rear of his car was shattered as a piece of cement brick smashed through it when Gandhi was on his way to the helipad in Dhanera from Lal Chowk in flood- ravaged Banaskantha district, police said. Gandhi, however, escaped unhurt and proceeded to the next place on his itinerary – Runi village in Thara taluka, where he asserted he would not get cowed down by such protests.

“Won’t step back because of black flags, Narendra Modi slogans or stones,” an unfazed Gandhi told a gathering at Runi. Superintendent of Police Neeraj Badgujar said a man threw a stone at Gandhi’s car, breaking the glass-pane at the rear end of the vehicle. He said a man who threw stone at the Congress leader’s car has been detained.

Earlier, he was heckled and shown black flags by people shouting pro-Narendra Modi slogans at Lal Chowk in Dhanera. Hardly had he started his speech when some people in the crowd waved back flags and started chanting ‘Modi, Modi’. “Let them come (those waving black flags), let them hoist flag here in front (of the stage),” an agitated Gandhi said.

“I wanted to be among you when your villages are flooded, when people have died in your homes. I wanted to meet you and embrace you. I want to tell you I and the Congress party are with you,” Gandhi said. “We do not have (a Congress) government at the Centre or in the state. But I and my party workers are standing with you in this hour of need,” he said, before abruptly ending his speech and leaving.

Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi blamed BJP ‘goons’ for the ‘dastardly’ attack. Sanghvi told journalists in New Delhi that several cars in the convoy were damaged, their windowpanes smashed and an SPG man suffered minor injury. “All this because, the Congress vice president went to a flood-affected area,” he said.

BJP, meanwhile, attacked the Congress leader, terming his visit to Gujarat an example of his ‘photo opportunity’ politics, and downplayed the protests against him. BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said in the national capital that the opposition party should not ‘abuse’ people who are ‘angry’ over the floods and ‘tired’ of Rahul Gandhi’s politics.

“For God’s sake, don’t call people goons. Don’t call public of this country as rowdy elements, people who are suffering from floods, people who are tired of this kind of politics that Rahul Gandhi and his party are doing. Let’s respect people’s emotions,” he told reporters. While BJP MLAs in Gujarat are doing their best to help people, Congress MLAs are enjoying themselves in a resort in Bengaluru, he said.

People are looking for their representatives but the Congress lawmakers are having fun in Karnataka, he said. Gujarat politics is in ferment for quite some time after a section of the Congress led by former chief minister Shankarsinh Vaghela broke ranks with the party and six of its MLAs quit it. Three of them later joined the BJP.

The upcoming Rajya Sabha elections have exacerbated the confrontation. The Congress has fielded Ahmed Patel, party president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, as its candidate, while the BJP has nominated its president Amit Shah and Union minister Smriti Irani. The ruling BJP has also put up a Congress rebel as its third candidate, making Patel’s task of getting elected for the fifth time difficult. The Congress has shifted its 44 MLAs to Bengaluru after accusing the BJP of trying to “poach” them.

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