New Delhi: He started with Ayushman Baharat and ended with JNU, mentioning ‘Rahul Baba’ and Kashmir in between.
This pretty much sums up the discourse put forth by former BJP chief and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who kicked off his campaign for Delhi polls with a series of rallies here on Thursday.
Faced with the challenge thrown by the AAP leadership to fight the election on ‘real issues’, Shah started his speech with Ayushman Bharat, a national health protection scheme which is the pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Shah dedicated a considerable amount of time to it. “Under the Ayushman Bharat scheme of the Government of India, the poor of the country are getting free treatment of up to Rs 5 lakh every year. But due to the Kejriwal-led government, this scheme is not available to the people of Delhi. Kejriwal fears that if the poor people benefit from this scheme, they will vote for Modiji,” Shah said.
Giving an emotional account of how much financially taxing it is for a family to provide healthcare to its members who are in need, Shah said that more often than not they are forced to opt out of availing treatment in want of money.
He also blamed Kejriwal for being a “hurdle” in legalising unauthorised colonies or improving the poor water quality in Delhi.
Shah then went straight to his familiar territories — Kashmir, abrogation of Article 370, sarcastic taunts at Rahul Gandhi and questioning the alleged anti-national statements made at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Raking up the old JNU controversy that saw Kanhaiya Kyumar emerge from nowhere, Shah said, “Two years ago, anti-India slogans were raised in JNU. When Modiji put him in jail, Kejriwal and Rahul & Co. immediately reached there and started saying that they have the right to freedom of speech.”
Taking the discourse forward, Shah resurrected his favourite “Rahul Baba” barb and warned the Congress leader to put up with his supporters in jail, if they supported such slogans.
“Rahul Baba & Co., open your ears and listen. Abuse us as much as you wish, abuse our party as much as you please. But if you talk about dividing ‘Bharat Mata’, you will be put in jail,” he said.
Shah also talked about the Citizenship Amendment Act, which has led to protests across Delhi and India.
Terming Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia as ‘shameless’, Shah said, “These people are inciting riots in Delhi by provoking the youth and minorities. Even today, Manish Sisodia says that ‘we are with the people of Shaheen Bagh’.”
By the time Shah started speaking on Kashmir, Article 370 and Ram Mandir, the crowd started to cheer him on with whistles and slogans, adding more energy to Shah’s voice.
It remains to be seen how much of these whistles translate into votes on February 8, when the 70-member Delhi Assembly goes to the polls.