Modi, Rahul trade barbs 3 days be­fore Bas­tar polling

Hindustan Times (Patiala) - - Front page - HT Cor­re­spon­dent let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com n

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.

PTI

Congress Pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi ad­dresses a rally in Kanker district on Fri­day.

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