India elections: Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi sling mud as country prepares to vote

 

The leaders of India’s two main parties heaped fresh attacks on one another in an increasingly bitter campaign prior to the first of nine days of voting.

Rahul Gandhi, scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family and face of the ruling Congress party’s campaign, accused the main opposition party of “double standards” over corruption and of trying to divide India along communal lines.

Meanwhile, Narendra Modi, the candidate of the main opposition party, accused Sonia Gandhi, Mr Gandhi’s mother and head of the Congress party, of indulging in vote-bank politics and of misleading India’s Muslims.

The barbs came on the eve of nine days of voting spread out over the coming month. In the first of these, voters today go to the polls in parts of Assam and Tripura, in India’s north-east. A total of 814m people across India are registered to participate. The results from all the polls are due to be announced on 16 May.

The rules governing India’s elections put in place a so-called “Model Code” to which all parties and politicians are supposed to adhere. It says that while a candidate can criticise the policies of another candidate, they are not get involved in personal attacks.

Read more: A better future for Indian children under the railway arches
100m more voters registered than at last election

India’s election season got underway with much high-minded talk of sticking to such rules. But, in an echo of elections in many other parts of the world, as polling dates have become nearer, the campaign rhetoric has become increasingly jagged and personal.

A Congress party candidate was arrested after saying he wanted to chop Mr Modi into pieces, while a BJP leader said he wanted to strip Mrs Gandhi and her son and “send them back to Italy.”

Meanwhile, over the weekend, police filed charges against a senior aide of Mr Modi after he was accused of telling voters in an area that had seen clashes between groups from different religions, that the election was about getting “revenge”.

Many polls suggest Mr Modi, who remains scarred by the massacre of hundreds of Muslims in the state of Gujarat in 2002 when he was chief minister, has a wave of support that could see him dislodge the Congress, which has held the last two terms of government.

Mr Modi’s polished and professional campaign has projected him as the only person capable of kickstarting India’s development and of tackling corruption.

But at a rally in the state of Haryana, Mr Gandhi accused the BJP of double standards when it came to corruption.

“[The BJP leaders] go to the state of Karnataka and give big speeches there. They bring BS Yeddyurappa, who was the Karnataka Chief Minister and has been in jail, on to the stage and then say they are against corruption,” he said. “Then they go to Chhatisgarh where mining mafia rules and say we are against corruption.”

In a speech in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Mr Modi accused Mrs Gandhi and one of her coalition partners of playing vote bank politics.

“They talk of secularism but their politics is all about keeping all classes poor through their politics,” he said, according the Press Trust of India news agency. “They can neither provide development nor security to the people and they have no right to be in power even for a second.”

Kanchan Gupta, a senior journalist and an adviser to Mr Modi, said he expected the language of the campaign trail would become “saucier” as the month of voting got underway.

“At this point, nobody really has a new point to make and you cannot keep on repeating the old points,” he said. “Now is about addressing the voting classes and the voting classes get very bored with the serious stuff.”

The north-eastern state of Tripura has two constituencies, both of them strongholds of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M). West Tripura, which includes the capital, Argatala, votes today while East Tripura, a constituency reserved for candidates from tribal communities, votes on Saturday.

At a national level, the campaign has been dominated by the issue of development and tackling corruption. In Tripura, the creation of jobs, especially for young people and those not associated the CPI(M), is an important local issue.

“For the younger generation, the jobs situation is very bad,” said Subhankar Karmakar, a 21-year-old student who was walking in a park in Agartala yesterday evening. “There are jobs, but they are not available to everyone.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
people
News
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
people
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us