Congress President Rahul Gandhi said on Saturday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had used the “surgical strikes” across the Line of Control in 2016 as a “political asset”, PTI reported. Speaking at an event in Udaipur ahead of the Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Gandhi alleged that the Centre had made the surgical strikes public knowledge because Uttar Pradesh was due to go to polls soon at the time.

“Like during the Modi government, surgical strike was conducted thrice during the Manmohan Singh government,” he said. “Are you aware of it? Modi actually reached into the Army’s domain and shaped surgical strike into a political asset.”

Gandhi addressed multiple public events in Rajasthan on Saturday. Elections will be held in the state on December 7. Speaking in Bhilwara, he held policies of the Narendra Modi government responsible for unemployment, alleging that demonetisation and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax had left lakhs of Indians jobless. He claimed that Modi had “destroyed” small traders and shopkeepers through the ban on high-value currency notes in 2016, and the Goods and Services Tax.

“Four youngsters committing suicide [in Alwar district] has given a message to Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Prime Minister Modi that they could not give employment,” he said. “Pradhan Mantriji, Vasundharaji, listen to the ‘mann ki baat’ of the youth. There is only question on their mind...give them employment.”

Gandhi said that the two biggest problems for the country were employment for the youth and the welfare of farmers. The Congress president said his party would focus on these problems in Rajasthan if voted to power. He also claimed the state would provide “free treatment for all”.

Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot and former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot were also present at the rally.

In the Udaipur event, Gandhi claimed that non-performing assets of banks rose from Rs 2 lakh crore during the rule of the United Progressive Alliance government, to Rs 12 lakh crore under the present dispensation. The Congress president also said that India will surpass China if it has the “right government” for the next 15 to 20 years.

The Congress president also claimed that Modi does not understand the “foundation of Hinduism”. “What is the essence of Hinduism?” he asked. “What does the Gita say? That knowledge is with everybody...knowledge is all around you. Our prime minister says he is a Hindu, but he doesn’t understand the foundation of Hinduism. What kind of a Hindu is he?”

The BJP hit back, with Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj saying she wished the day will not come when people have to learn the meaning of Hinduism from the Congress president. “The Congress claimed that Rahul Gandhi is a Hindu who wears a Brahminical thread, but I did not know he is so rich in knowledge that now he will teach us the meaning of Hinduism,” she told reporters.

‘UPA gave loans with turned into NPAs’: Amit Shah

However, Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah said at a rally that it was the UPA government, not the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance that granted loans to banks which turned into non-performing assets. “These are the results of the misdeeds of the Congress government,” he said at a rally in Kuchaman city of Nagaur district.

Shah also said that fugitive businessmen Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi were given loans during UPA’s rule. He claimed that Mallya and Nirav Modi did not flee India at the time because “they had no fear of the Congress”. “They believed that they had a partnership,” Shah said. “Those who are being guarded, why will they run away? After the Modi government came to power, they had a fear of being jailed.”

Shah also countered Gandhi on the surgical strikes, claiming that the Congress president had insulted dead Army soldiers. “Narendra Modi took revenge for Army martyrs,” he said at a public meeting in Phalodi town of Jodhpur district. “Rahul Gandhi is saying that surgical strike was conducted to win the Uttar Pradesh elections. You insult the martyrs of the country. You could not even show some courage.”

Attacking Gandhi for his remark that Modi does not understand the foundation of Hinduism, Shah said: “The Congress is now preaching to us about Hinduism. They are giving us lessons of the Gita.”

Later, speaking at a rally in Barmer, Shah said the Congress is an “ATM of lies”, whereas the BJP is an “ATM of development”, PTI reported.