Stone-throwing acquired a new dimension on Friday as Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s convoy was hit by a cement brick, while he was touring the flood-devastated Banaskantha district of Gujarat. The rear glass of the car was shattered due to the impact. Rahul, who was in the front seat, escaped unhurt; but the stone injured an SPG commando sitting at the back.
Banaskantha SP Neeraj Badgujar confirmed that a man had thrown stones at the Congress VP’s car and was “detained for interrogation”. Gujarat Chief Minister Vijaya Rupani said Rahul was offered a bullet-proof car by the State government, but he refused it. An FIR against an unknown person has been registered.
Right after the incident, Rahul said: “I’m not affected; my job is done…. We are not going to step back because of PM Modi’s slogans, show of black flags and stone pelting.” To prove this, he went on to meet more flood victims in Banaskantha’s Runi village.
Before the stone-pelting incident at Lal Chowk, Dhanera, Rahul’s speech was interrupted by a group of protestors chanting ‘Modi’ slogans. He was also shown black flags. This, despite Banaskantha being a Congress bastion, where it holds six of the nine Assembly seats. But the six Congress MLAs — Mahesh Patel, Govabhai Rabari, Kantibhai Kharadi, Jayantibhai Patel, Manibhai Vaghela, and Dharshibhai Khanpura — are holed up in a Karanataka resort, to safeguard a Rajya Sabha seat for party leader Ahmed Patel. None of them have been able to visit their flood-ravaged constituencies.
Rahul’s visit was primarily organised to counter the BJP’s accusations that while it was engaged in “relief and rehabilitation work”, Congress MLAs were busy in a “resort for recreational work”.
The Gujarat Chief Minister in fact not only camped in the area to oversee the relief operation, he paid visits to almost every village, and even undertook personal door-to-door survey, wherever possible. “While reaching out to the flood-hit people, Rupaniji, in every interaction, mentioned that the Congress MLAs were away holidaying, while they were suffering,” a local source told the New Indian Express on phone, adding that “anger has been building up — today’s protests could be a manifestation of the public mood”.
How much of it would hold till the assembly elections at the end of the year and how much Rahul’s visit could counter the BJP attack, would be known later. As of now, the Congress blamed the BJP for sending “goondas” to attack their leader and the BJP retorted, “it was stage-managed by the Congress”. BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao, said: “It’s not BJP culture to resort to any violence.
But the manner in which Congress has tried to turn the incident into a political slugfest gives rise to the suspicion whether the stone-pelting on the car was stage managed to help a desperate Congress’s flagging fortune.” In the Congress, from Ghulam Nabi Azad to Milind Deora, every leader accused the BJP of trying to “create an atmosphere of fear in the state of Gujarat before the assembly elections”.