Gwalior, Oct. 17: Rahul Gandhi today cited how his mother was moved to “tears” during the fight for food security as he offered an alternative to the Narendra Modi model of development, pitting dignity for the poor and freedom from hunger against “cars running on good roads”.
His remarks came in Madhya Pradesh where the party kicked off its campaign to oust the 10-year-old BJP government of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, which seems not to be grappling with too many anti-incumbency demons.
In the context of development, Rahul argued that infrastructure meant little if people went hungry and were denied izzat (dignity) and empowerment.
“Development is important but honouring the people’s will, their dignity, are more important. The proponents of Shining India will not understand that roads, bridges, airports and modern cities do not make the country. We also make these things but that is not our politics,” he told a huge rally in Gwalior.
“They think cars running on good roads is development. (But the need is to) make a change to ordinary people’s lives. The BJP has no concern for the people’s struggles, their hunger, their agonies. Our heart aches when people go hungry; we have changed the meaning of development.”
At a rally in Shahdol, the Congress vice-president showcased Sonia Gandhi’s personal commitment to the cause of the poor. “My mother was not well when the food security bill was being passed in Parliament. I was looking at her every 10-15 minutes. Suddenly, I saw her going out of the Lok Sabha. When I went out to find out, she was sitting with (Congress MP Kumari) Selja,” he said.
“When I learnt she was ill, I took her to (Union minister) Kamal Nath’s office and called the doctor. They suggested (she) go to the hospital immediately. I requested her (to do so) but she refused. She said, ‘Come what may, I will stay here’.”
Rahul added: “When I dragged her out (to) the car to go to the hospital, she was in tears. She said, ‘I have fought for this bill and I want to push the button to pass it in the vote’.”
He told the crowd: “It was your fight, your struggle we were carrying onů. The BJP makes fun of us; they ridicule us. But let me tell you, this country will go nowhere if the poor is not fed and given livelihood; if the weak is not empowered.”
Rahul criticised the Congress’s political opponents and the corporate critics of the food security bill.
“When we bring welfare schemes, they say ‘Garbad ho raha hai (a wrong is being committed)’. Questions are raised about money. If you spend money on the poor, (they think) it is wasted,” he said.
“The BJP blocked these bills in Parliament; they ridiculed us. But we have done what no government did in the past. For the first time, nobody will go hungry. The food security bill will ensure that children don’t sleep hungry.”
Rahul avoided the expected announcement of Jyotiraditya Scindia as the party’s candidate for chief minister, perhaps to avert factionalism in a state that is home to many senior party leaders.
He merely indicated that the youth would have a bigger role in the Congress and added: “Whoever runs the next Congress government (in the state), people will get izzat, respect.”
The indirect projection of Scindia — he has been appointed the party’s campaign committee chief in Madhya Pradesh — has injected fresh enthusiasm into the Congress machinery. The general opinion is that the state will witness a tough contest.
Rahul sought to turn the tables on the BJP on corruption.
“We will see a yatra in the entire country on corruption, but what about corruption in Madhya Pradesh? This is the school of corruption — rather, the university,” he said.