Saturday was a hot and fiery day for Delhi as the election campaign heated up with both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi holding rallies. The capital goes to the polls on May 25.

On Saturday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and I.N.D.I.A Alliance Bloc leaders held a rally at Delhi’s Chandni Chowk where the former addressed a crowd. Amidst a roaring crowd, Gandhi gave a roaring speech liberally sprinkled with amusing anecdotes.

Gandhi asked both the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders to support each other. “Congress is fighting on three seats, while AAP is fighting on four. While Congress cadres will support those candidates, they also have to support candidates from the AAP party as well. Teen seeton main Congress ka button dabana hai aur chaar seaton main AAP ka button dabana hai,” he said.

Gandhi further said that he is ready to debate Prime Minister Narendra Modi anytime.

“A few intellectuals wrote to me and Narendra Modi ji saying we should debate with each other. We should keep whatever questions we have in front of each other. I am ready, I can debate with Narendra Modi anytime, anywhere,” he said, then asking whether Modi will come to debate him or not?

“He won’t come,” Gandhi further said.

“The first question I would ask PM Modi is what is his relationship with Adani, next I want to ask him about electoral bonds,” the former Congress chief said.

Gandhi said the debate would end after these two questions only, but he also wants to ask the Prime Minister why he asked the public to bang plates and flash mobile phones when people were suffering from the Covid pandemic.

The rally was also attended by Udit Raj and Kanhaiya Kumar who are fighting from North West and North East Delhi constituencies respectively.

In a funny moment quoting Kumar, Gandhi said that he will be voting for AAP, while Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will be voting for the Congress party this time, to which the crowd cheered.

Holding up a small “Constitution of India” booklet, Gandhi said, “We all have come together because our goal is to save the constitution of India. We have to come together because BJP leaders have openly said that they will tear the Constitution and end it”

The Congress leader further said that Modi has done nothing for the small traders

“Narendra Modi ji worked for 22 to 25 people ...there are small traders, shopkeepers in Chandini Chowk. I want to ask you what Narendra Modi has done for small traders. He implemented demonetisation, wrong GST, 28 %tax and did extortion. So, I want to ask what work Modi has done for you,” he said.

He alleged that Modi wants to make “crorepatis rich” however he has “schemes to make crores of people rich”.

“Under this scheme, every woman will get Rs 1 lakh per year under this scheme. Sab har mahine TakaTak TakaTak Rs 8500 aayega ...Now, as I have said TakaTak...Modi ji will also say in his speech TakaTak, phataphat,” Gandhi said.

On the arrest of Kejriwal and Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s arrest Gandhi attacked the prime minister averring they have “tigers on our side”.

“They put Kejriwal ji in jail, Soren ji in jail...they have a list...abhi Delhi se bhi ek uthakar le gaye...acha hai...hame nahi chahiye darpok...We have tigers,” he said.

On leaders from his party switching over to the BJP, Gandhi said, “We don’t want ‘darpok’ (coward) leaders, we want ‘Babbar Sher’. We don’t want those who cower fearing CBI-ED action.”

He also took a dig at the media saying they were not his friends, neither they are friends of small traders, the youth.

“They will show you either Bollywood stars or Ambani’s wedding or the face of the prime minister so I have to say that they are not our friends,” he said.

Gandhi along with other leaders launched a manifesto - a vision document for Chandini Chowk constituency.

The rally was attended by hundreds of Congress cadres, wherein many locals also joined to get a glimpse of Gandhi.

“I am a small worker in Congress, but I believe in Rahul Gandhi and the alliance. The hate politics need to go away. We are confident to win,” Shah, who is a cadre at the party, said.

Prime Minister Modi also held his first rally in Delhi and accused the opposition bloc of pursuing “vote bank” politics, alleging that the former Congress government in Delhi handed over 123 properties at prime locations to the Waqf Board for Muslim votes ahead of the 2014 elections, the Wayanad MP launched a direct attack on the PM over alleged “links” with a few businessmen and over the “misused” electoral bonds.

Addressing a rally Yamuna Khadar area of Usmanpur in North East Delhi constituency where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded MP Manoj Tiwari, Modi slammed the “opportunistic” Congress-Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) alliance, saying the world is watching how one corrupt party is covering for another corrupt party. Tiwari is contesting against Congress’s Kanhaiya Kumar.

North East is the same constituency where anti-Muslim violence had taken place in 2020, killing 53 people.

Modi also sought votes for the BJP’s East Delhi candidate Harsh Malhotra and Chandni Chowk candidate Praveen Khandelwal.

“While Delhi witnesses progress, the INDI Alliance is bent on its destruction. Their betrayal of trust and rampant corruption schemes have disillusioned millions. From false promises to embracing corruption, their hypocrisy knows no bounds. It’s time to expose their deceit and choose integrity over dishonesty,” he said.

Modi said the Congress had joined hands with those advocating for “vote jihad” for its vote bank during the 2014 elections.

“It was agreed that they would vote for the Congress, and its government in turn handed over the country’s properties to the Waqf Board. These properties were spread across prime locations where a yard of land costs many lakhs of rupees,” Modi said.

Meanwhile, Congress candidate Kanhaiya Kumar was attacked by two men as they got angry when they heard his “2016 JNU speech”.

The two men -- Daksh and Annu Chaudhary later defended their actions and said they wanted to slap the latter after they heard his 2016 speech in which he allegedly raised "anti-national slogans" when he was a student at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). The attackers added they had no link to any political party.

All Photographs Nikita Jain.