Why is BJP unable to ignore Rahul?

Why is BJP unable to ignore Rahul?

Whether it is Rahul's temple visits or attacks on the way GST was implemented, the Congress vice-president is on senior BJP leaders' mind and radar all through their campaign.

BJP strategists attribute this to two reasons. One, Rahul and the Congress have distinctly avoided their "secular" issues to target the BJP.

Instead, they have tried to showcase the Congress vice-president's visits to temples (without corresponding visits to any Muslim religious places) as a proof of its "soft-Hindutva" approach.

Secondly, the Congress' campaign has forced Modi and his ministers to respond to all the issues raised by it because of serious anti-incumbency factors working against its ministers and MLAs.

Whether it is the rollout of GST, demonetisation or banks being burdened with mountains of non-performing assets (NPA), Rahul has blamed the Modi government squarely, accusing it of mishandling all vital matters.

Several Union ministers, including Arun Jaitley, have been deployed regularly to issue clarifications and rebuttals.

As a strategy, initially, the Congress and Rahul consciously stayed away from personally attacking Modi.

Instead, the Opposition party said they were taking on the prime minister over his much-trumpeted Gujarat model of development.

Rahul's definition of GST - Gabbar Singh Tax - at a rally in Gandhinagar had the BJP on the defensive.

Modi and other ministers attempted to reassure traders through dialogues and announcements about minimising their burden.

Finally, the BJP strategists say they got a breather when the Youth Congress' meme mocking 'chai wallah' went viral.

The Congress sought to immediately distance itself from the post.

But the BJP found it handy as the meme was posted by Yuva Desh, the official Twitter account of the Youth Congress' e-magazine.

A day before Advisor to US President Donald Trump, Ivanka, hailed the prime minister's journey from a humble tea seller to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), Modi raised the temperature on the issue.

Calling himself a "son of the soil", Modi told the gathering in Rajkot: "I am a chai wallah. I sell tea but I will never commit the sin of selling the country."

An old rhetoric but the prime minister thought he had made his point forcefully.

The latest round of the campaign war on Wednesday saw a new row over Rahul's name being added to the "non-Hindu" visitors' book at the Somnath temple.

The Congress claimed the register book is fake and accused the BJP of diverting attention from "real issues".

Referring to Rahul's visit to the temple, Modi said: "Thanks to Modi, Rahul has visited 21 temples in Gujarat."

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