AHMEDABAD/NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not pull out any rabbits from the hat in his first hectic round of rallies in Gujarat after the elections were announced. He was aggressive in posture, but defensive in speech as he sought to convince the voters by speaking in Gujarati and not Hindi as he had started doing in the past, that he remained a son of the soil, a humble ‘chaiwalla’, and unlike the ‘dynastic’ Congress party committed to the state and development.

Interestingly, the rallies were also significant more for what the Prime Minister did not say, as most of what he did was a regurgitation from past speeches. For instance he barely touched on the twin economic issues of demonetisation and GST in the four rallies he addressed on Monday. He remained non-committal also on social unrest, unemployment, reservation for Patidars, and the agrarian crisis in the state.

He did not refer to the three caste leaders who have been getting tremendous traction in the state---Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani who will be contesting the elections now as an Independent, and Alpesh Thakor who has now joined the Congress party.

But he did not mince words on the Congress and Rahul Gandhi, launching a front attack on the party that he described as corrupt, arrogant, and anti-Gujarat. And did not hesitate to draw on the emotional card, projecting himself through the day as the son of the soil against the “outsider” Congress that did not have the interest of the state at heart and was here to exploit sentiments, and get the votes.

PM Modi reminded the people of how the Congress called Gujaratis donkeys in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, and now they “dared” to come to the state asking for votes.

He recalled how Indira Gandhi had sacked Morarji Desai from her cabinet. And added, "Congress has not just insulted Sardar Patel. Congress ignored Morarji Desai because he was from Gujarat. How many people remember Kamaraj or Debharbhai, who were presidents of Congress nationally. The party that does not go beyond one family, what do you expect from them?"

And drawing on emotion and sentiment the PM said, “I have come here as your son. You have brought me up like a son. And how dare you (Opposition Congress and its leader Rahul Gandhi) come to Gujarat and abuse her son?” “Will any Gujarati forgive that? Will you forgive the attack on your son? Will you forgive the atrocity on your son?”

The speeches have been personalised, about himself ….“It was the earthquake that forced me to lead a new life. I used to do social work while holding a ‘thelo (bag)’. Vajapayeeji (the then Prime Minister) had sent me and gave me responsibility as Chief Minister. I learnt the first letter of administration from Kutch. People of Kutch have done my training after the earthquake”....drawing the difference continuously between the ‘outsider’ and the ‘son of the soil.’

And then the reference linking the Congress to Kashmir….“Certain people can’t understand certain things. If you tell them about Kesar mango, they will say that one gets Kesar (saffron) in Jammu & Kashmir. Now, tell me should I waste time in arguing with such people?”

And again to terrorism…“Recently, a Pakistani court released a terrorist. I cannot understand, if why are Congress people clapping…in Doklam, Indian Army was standing with eye to eye on border (with Chinese army) for 70 long days, you were embracing Chinese ambassador. When Indian soldier was standing against Chinese soldiers in chilling temperatures, you were giving hugs to Chinese ambassador. What was that?”

And again to ‘nationalism’ as being on the opposing side…. “And you could not honour Indian army?…if you cannot maintain the dignity of the Indian army, you should have at least stayed silent…And you asked questions like why did even a single soldier not get injured or killed (in the surgical strike), is there a video or picture of it…Did we go to shoot a film there? Should we shoot it like you do while having food at a poor family’s home?”

And the crowds at his meetings lapped it all up, shouting Modi ,Modi in unison

As for development, the solution to all problems, the PM said is development that has to be continuous. “We want to work even more for the people of Gujarat” but “Pitting one caste against the other is Congress’ tendency. Make sure that you do not let them destroy the composite culture of Gujarat.”