With little over a week to go before poll day in Punjab, the political battle escalated in the state yesterday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi engaging in a high decibel war of words.
Modi led the election campaign of the Akali- Bharatiya Janata Party coalition and addressed a rally in Jalandhar, while Rahul on the first day of his three-day Punjab visit launched an offensive against the ruling combine at a rally at Majitha.
Modi dismissed the Congress as a “sinking ship” and “history” and called upon the people not to vote for the opposition party in the coming assembly elections.
“The Congress… is on its last breath,” Modi said at a joint election rally with Punjab Chief Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) patron Parkash Singh Badal here.
“The Congress has no principles or rules,” Modi said, adding it is struggling to even survive. 
“The country has seen the politics of destruction for 70 years and the youth of this country are suffering due to it. If you want to do politics, do politics of development,” Modi said.
Rahul took a dig at the prime minister for standing with “the corrupt Akali Dal leaders and talking of fighting corruption”.
He alleged that Modi was engaging in doublespeak by talking against corruption and still backing the “tainted” Badals.
Rahul said Modi’s demonetisation move had adversely affected all sections of people, including farmers, small traders, and other such groups while the ruling Badals had allegedly made huge profits because “their hands are in every profitable business in the state”.
“Modi will come here and say that I fight against corruption and I have done demonetisation. Can you tell me how one who talks about fighting against corruption, can stand with the Akalis,” Rahul asked, slamming the Badals as well as Modi.
“Can you tell me how can Modi share the same dais with (Deputy Chief Minister) Sukhbir Singh Badal and still talk about fighting corruption?”
Rahul claimed the Akalis have “destroyed” the state and “brought it to its knees” and blamed the Badal family for the drugs problem in the state.
He vowed to crack down on the menace of drugs “with harsh laws” if the Congress was voted to power. Modi, who spoke after Rahul’s rally, weighed in on remarks made earlier by the Congress leader on the issue of drug menace.
The prime minister without naming Rahul said “some people” were saying “improper things” about the youth of Punjab and they needed to be taught a lesson “so that they don’t point fingers at the youth of the state”.
Both Modi and Rahul put an end to the speculation over their chief ministerial candidates.
Modi said that Punjab wanted to see Parkash Singh Badal re-elected while Rahul announced that the Congress’ chief ministerial candidate will be Captain Amarinder Singh – something that was expected.
The Punjab polls, to be held on February 4, will see a triangular battle between the ruling BJP-SAD alliance, the Congress, and the Aam Aadmi Party – which is tipped to make major electoral gains in the state.

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