Modi, Rahul trade barbs 3 days before Bastar polling
Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi squared off in Chhatttisgarh on Friday, three days ahead of the first round of polling in the state’s Bastar region, a Maoist hotbed, as they exchanged bitter political rhetoric over so-called “urban Naxals” and what each had done for the benefit of the state’s dominant tribespeople.
At his campaign rally in Jagdalpur, Modi hit out at the Congress for being soft on urban Naxals, a term coined for left-wing intellectuals who sympathise with Maoists. He accused the Congress of describing Maoists as “revolutionary” and of ruining the lives of the tribespeople of Chhattisgarh.
“You people must have seen the urban Naxals, seated in airconditioned rooms in cities, who look good, are in good company and enjoy status. Their children study abroad,” he said at the rally in the town located in Bastar. “If
You people must have seen the urban Naxals... If the government acts against them, then you (Congress) try to save them NARENDRA MODI Prime Minister
... the damage Modi has done with (demonetisation) and Gabbar Singh
Tax, no one else caused such a loss in history RAHUL GANDHI, Cong president
the government acts against them, then you (Congress) try to save them.” In a crackdown on August 28, the Maharashtra police arrested poet Varavara Rao, activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira, trade unionist and lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj and civil liberties activist Gautam Navlakha for their suspected links with Maoists.
Following the arrests, Congress chief Gandhi accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government of jailing activists. The Congress is trying to end 15 years of BJP rule in Chhattishgarh, where elections to the 90-member assembly will be held in two phases — on November 12 and November 20. The first phase will see polling in 18 seats in eight Maoist-affected districts. The ruling BJP lost 12 of the 18 seats in the 2013 polls.
The remaining 72 constituencies will go to polls in the second phase on November 20.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi promised on Friday to write off farmers’ debts within 10 days of coming to power in Chhattisgarh and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of destroying the economy.
Addressing four rallies in the poll-bound state, including one in chief minister Raman Singh’s home district of Rajnandgaon, Gandhi attacked the Centre over the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which he alleged, was a ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’.
Three days before the first phase of voting in Chhattisgarh on November 12, Gandhi also accused Modi and Singh of making “false” and “unfulfilled” promises.
“Bastar is rich in natural resources, but local people don’t have access to their benefits. The benefits are reaching a few industrialist friends of Modi ji and Chhattisgarh CM,” Gandhi said.
The 47-year-old leader said his party would resolve farm problems in the state. “If we form the government in Chhattisgarh, we will waive the loans of farmers within ten days,” he said, claiming that food processing units will be developed for farmers in each district.
Claiming that the Congressled United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre used to provide R 35,000 crore to run the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in a year, Gandhi alleged that Modi was busy waiving the loans 10-15 industrialists to the tune of ₹3.5 lakh crore in the past four-and-a-half years. “With this huge money, 10 MNREGAs could have been executed,” he said.
Gandhi also alleged that the prime minister had failed to fulfil his promise of depositing ₹15 lakh in everyone’s bank account by unearthing black money stashed away by dishonest Indians and creating 20 million jobs every year. He also alleged jewellers Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, liquor baron Vijay Mallya and tainted cricket administrator Lalit Modi fled India with thousands of crores with the help of the government.
Gandhi targeted Singh over allegations of a ₹5,000 crore chit fund scam. Singh had denied these charges earlier. “Who had opened these (chit fund) companies? They were friends of Raman Singh,” Gandhi alleged.
The BJP rubbished the allegations and called them baseless. Party spokesperson Sacchinand Upasana said: “No one takes Rahul Gandhi seriously in Chhattisgarh. The allegations against CM Raman Singh and PM Modi are baseless. Congress is losing Chattisgarh and hence the frustration of Rahul Gandhi is visible”.
Gandhi spoke at four rallies on Thursday, at Pakhanjore, Khairagarh,Dongargarh and Gunj Chowk. The Congress is looking to come back to power after 15 years in Chhattisgarh.
Elections to the 90-member assembly will be held in two phases - on November 12 and November 20 - and counting of votes will take place on December 11.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi addresses a rally in Kanker district on Friday.