Congress supporters at the rally in Bardoli on Saturday. (AFP)
Bardoli (Surat), Feb. 8: Rahul Gandhi today launched a frontal attack on Narendra Modi on his home turf, accusing the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate of “representing the ideology that killed Mahatma Gandhi”.
Addressing his first public rally in the region at Bardoli, a town 280km from Ahmedabad from where Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had launched his satyagraha against the British in 1928, the Congress vice-president ridiculed Modi for installing a huge statue of Patel.
“You lived in the RSS all your life, now you want to construct a statue of Sardar Patel. It was Patel who had banned the RSS after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. But what Patel and Gandhi said, neither do you have any understanding of nor have you read them,” Rahul said, without naming Modi.
Patel had described RSS ideology as “poisonous, which will destroy the country’s soul”, he added.
The rally marked the close of the Vikas Khoj Yatra organised by the Youth Congress, which kicked off at Satyagraha Ashram in Ahmedabad on January 18 and travelled more than 500km to reach Bardoli — Rahul joined it for 5km.
“You want to make ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’,” Rahul said, referring to Modi’s refrain to free India of the Congress. “But the Congress is not an organisation, it is a thought, an idea, that of Patel and Gandhi.”
The yatra was aimed at testing the “reality” of the claims of progress in Gujarat under Modi.
“What kind of development is this in Gujarat where the poverty line is Rs 11 and the number of people in the state below this poverty line is 38 lakh?” Rahul asked today.
Six thousand farmers had committed suicide in Gujarat and 13,000 schools and 55,000 small businesses had closed in the state, Rahul continued, accusing the state government of looking after the interests of the rich at the cost of the poor.
“Have you seen a single rupee of the Rs 55,000 crore?” he asked, referring to Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana — the state government’s much-publicised Rs 55,000-crore scheme for tribals. The crowd responded with a loud “No!”
Accusing Modi of making hollow promises and announcing schemes for tribals and fishermen that were never implemented, he said: “We have to respect the tea vendors, the labourers and farmers but those who make a fool of others should not be respected.”
Modi claims he worked at a tea stall as a boy and Rahul had frowned at a joke Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar cracked about this.
“The development of Gujarat is because of the sweat of its people and not on account of an individual who is taking the credit,” the Congress vice-president said today.