-Darshan Desai (IANS)
Chotila (Gujarat), Sep 27 Wading through the heat and dust of Gujarat’s caste-driven, economically backward Saurashtra region for three full days, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi ended his last day on Wednesday by climbing the 900 steep steps of the popular hilltop Chotila temple, catching the imagination of the crowds who followed and watched him.
Gandhi, who began his campaign on Monday by offering prayers at the famous Dwakadheesh temple in Dwarka, followed it Wednesday not only with the Chamunda Mata in Chotila but also with that of the Patidar deity Khodaldham in Kagvad village near Rajkot. He wooed the agitating Patidars and harried farmers, taking potshots at the central and the state governments.
Locals and Congress workers gathered at the foot of the Chotila hill were seen engaged in animated debates whether the Gandhi scion would be able to scale the 900 tough steps up to the temple.
“I could make it only half as I followed Rahul Gandhi, who continued at a steady pace and finished the journey up and down in 47 minutes,” a local told IANS as he panted trying to catch up with the Congress leader.
He said for the locals, “the very presence of the Congress leader between them chatting up, often with some words in Gujarati, was adequate to enthuse them”.
On the final day of his ‘Navsarjan Yatra’, Gandhi asked the motley gathering at Chotila in Surendranagar district before climbing the hill. “What has happened to development in Gujarat? This is the first time that development has gone mad.”
“Vikas gando thayo chhe (development has gone bonkers),” Rahul Gandhi continued in Gujarati, leaving the people in peels of laughter in the wake of the social media campaign for over a month with this catchline taunting the BJP government.
He promised that if voted to power, the Congress would waive off the loans of farmers.
“The Congress government waived off loans in Karnataka and Punjab. This trend will continue in Gujarat if Congress comes to power,” he said.
Taking a cue from BJP veteran Yashwant Sinha who attacked the “hasty implementation” of the Goods and Services Tax and “poorly conceived demonetization initiative, Gandhi reiterated his criticism.
He tweeted: “Ladies & Gentlemen, this is your co-pilot & FM speaking. Plz fasten your seat belts & take brace position. The wings have fallen off our plane.”
Apparently hassled over Gandhi’s sweltering three-day campaign and stinging criticism, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani called him and the Congress party bats who “cannot see during the day”.
A usually soft-spoken and mild-mannered Rupani blurted: “Rahul Gandhi aney Congress party chaama-chidiya jeva chhey, e loko ne divas ma dekhatu nathi. Etle jemne Gujarat no vikas dekhato nathi (Rahul and Congress are like bats, they can’t see the development of Gujarat).”