Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi with Tura party candidate Daryl William Momin in Resubelpara in North Garo Hills on Tuesday and (right) Rahul interacts with women at the rally in Ziro. (Pictures by UB Photos and PTI)
March 18: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi made pit stops at Ziro-Hapoli in Arunachal Pradesh and Resubelpara in Meghalaya today, as the race to Parliament gathered momentum.
Rahul’s first destination was the picturesque Ziro Valley where Congress workers braved a scorching sun and turned up at Subansiri stadium to cheer him at his maiden rally in Arunachal Pradesh.
However, Rahul’s speech wasn’t exactly scorching. Never once did he name the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi — instead choosing to tell chief minister Nabam Tuki that he would like to “retire in Ziro one day”.
Referring to the death of Nido Tania in New Delhi this year, Rahul said, “It is because of ignorance that Nido was killed. The Congress wants every single Indian to have equal space anywhere in the country. The people of the Garo hills, Meghalaya and the Northeast should feel at home anywhere in India.”
Rahul, however, did take a veiled dig at the BJP. “Just like a bouquet is not made of one flower, the country too derives strength from all states and all of them are of equal importance. India is not a country of one thought but some people want to impose such an idea.”
The Congress vice-president also spoke on his pet topic of women’s empowerment. “A lot of work has been done for women in the Northeast. The rest of the country should get inspired by the way you treat women,” he said.
On the issue of hydropower generation, he merely said the sector needs more attention. Modi, who had addressed a rally at Pasighat in East Siang district of the state last month, had said more focus should be given on building smaller dams.
On development, Rahul said, “Roads, airport and railways have been built here. But the strength of Arunachal is your history and ecology. So amid development, we must preserve its ecology, the languages and the history. Without that Arunachal and India cannot grow.”
“There can be change only when there is devolution of power, when people and panchayats are empowered. That’s why the Congress wants your support,” he said.
Upon his arrival at Resubelpara in North Garo Hills, 250km from Shillong, Rahul began his speech by greeting the people in the local dialect, saying “Namenga ma? (How are you?)”.
In his 30-minute address to nearly 5,000 people, Rahul dwelt on the UPA’s flagship programmes and the representation of every community, irrespective of caste, creed and colour, in the Centre’s work. “The Opposition believes in the centralisation of power and politics of anger. The Congress party believes in uniting people, giving power to people, particularly the youth and women, to transform the society and the politics of love,” he said.
“The Congress has initiated welfare programmes and development projects in Meghalaya and our top priority is education and empowerment of youth and women,” he added.
Rahul also introduced the Congress candidate for Tura seat, Daryl William Momin.
People were ferried from across the Garo hills and neighbouring Assam villages to attend the rally. A festive mood was witnessed at the event with local residents selling food and other items.
On corruption, Rahul said, “The Congress has passed the RTI Act. However, the Opposition keeps targeting us on various issues. If they have anything to complain about, why are they not using the RTI? Our party had taken the initiative to introduce six anti-corruption bills in Parliament but the Opposition did not allow them to be passed.”
Rahul left Resubelpara in a helicopter after addressing the rally. Sources said the chopper, which was supposed to land at Umroi airport in Ri Bhoi district, had to land at the Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati, owing to poor visibility.
From Guwahati, Rahul had to travel by road to Shillong. On reaching there, he addressed a meeting of party workers at the State Convention Centre to drum up support for sitting Congress MP from Shillong Vincent H. Pala.
Tomorrow, Rahul will visit Wangjing under Thoubal district of Manipur where he will address a rally at the Kodompokpi ground in the Outer Manipur constituency.