Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday formally launched an aggressive campaign for the State Assembly elections scheduled in December with a blistering attack on the Congress on the “Coalgate” issue, suggesting that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh be probed by a Special Investigation Team on the alleged scandal.

“In my case, the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre was constituting SITs at the drop of a hat to corner me. I want to ask the Congress and the Prime Minister, would he like to face one now on the Coalgate scandal?” he asked.

Reiterating that the CBI was acting like an extended arm of the Congress, Mr. Modi claimed that the agency had been repeatedly misused by the UPA government to harass him during his entire tenure but said he had come out totally unscathed and more powerful to “continue to work for the people of Gujarat”.

The Chief Minister alleged that the Congress, having realised it was caught on the wrong foot over Coalgate, was trying to whip up passion among the people against the Comptroller and Auditor General just as it had done against the judiciary following the 2G spectrum scam.

Mr. Modi gave a clear indication that not development — which had been the keynote of his speeches in the 2007 Assembly elections — but the alleged “injustices of the Centre against Gujarat” would be his focus in the coming elections.

The former BJP national president, Rajnath Singh, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, party in-charge for the Gujarat affairs Balbir Punj, and a host of other BJP leaders were present to flag off Mr. Modi’s daylong “Vikas Rathyatra” which began at Becharaji and ended at Sanand, near Ahmedabad in the evening and included seven meetings. Mr Modi has planned to cover all the 182 Assembly constituencies through his “Vivekananda Vikas Yatra” in one month when it concludes on October 11.

Mr. Modi also criticised the Congress in the State for its alleged “advice” to the people to demonstrate against him during his yatra. Mr. Modi said he would never behave in such an undemocratic way if national leaders visited the State and his government would provide all facilities to allow all the parties to campaign.

Alleging that the Congress in the State did not have the “guts” to confront the Centre with the “injustices” to the State, Mr. Modi gave a call to the people to make Gujarat “Congress-free”.

Mr. Modi said the “condition of the country would improve” if the UPA government in Delhi were to follow the Gujarat model of development.

Criticising the Congress over the Coalgate issue, Mr. Rajnath Singh said “If we win Gujarat, no one can stop us from winning in Delhi next time.”

Mr. Jaitley said under the UPA government corruption had reached its zenith and developmental activities had come to a standstill. “It is the first time for any government in the country, the media has been using the term ‘policy paralysis,” he said to signify the gravity of the situation.

Hitting out at Mr. Modi, Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly Shaktisinh Gohil, said that the CAG had given a report of irregularities, similar to the CAG’s against over Coalgate, to the tune of over Rs. 46,000 crore by the Modi government. Mr. Gohil said Dr. Singh was prepared to debate Coalgate in Parliament while Mr. Modi was not prepared to allow a debate in the House. “That should make it clear who is really corrupt.”