|Rahul Gandhi interacts with people in Koraput on Monday. (PTI)
Bhubaneswar, March 31: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi today slammed the Naveen Patnaik government over the multi-crore mining scam and alleged that the state was being run by the mining mafia.
“The state government is run by the mine mafia and not by leaders. Valuable minerals worth thousands of crore rupees are being looted with the knowledge of the government,” he said at an election rally at Lunguri near Semiliguda in Koraput district.
“It is your property that is being looted. You are not getting anything out of it. Those of you who get displaced, don’t get rehabilitated,” Rahul said while listing many other scams that the state has seen in the last five years.
The focus of his attack, however, was on illegal mining that had come under the scanner of the Justice M.B. Shah Commission, which, in its report, has recommended a CBI probe into the scam.
The CBI chief had met chief minister Naveen Patnaik last month fuelling speculations about a probe by the central investigating agency being ordered.
Rahul also targeted the BJD for hijacking the MNREGA scheme and taking undue credit for the subsidised rice being provided by the Centre. “These are centrally-funded schemes but the state government is claiming credit for them,” he said.
He also attacked the state government for its failure to utilise the central government funds for the benefit of the people. “This money is not reaching the people. It disappears at the upper levels of the state government,” said Rahul.
The Congress vice-president sought to strike an emotional chord with the region’s tribal population recalling his father and grandmother’s love for them. “Rajiv Gandhi and Indiraji used to visit these areas. Soniaji, too, has come here. My family has a special bond with you people,” he said.
Addressing a rally at a ground named after Indira Gandhi at Umerkote in Nabarangpur district, Rahul said the Congress had always protected the interests of all sections of people, especially the farmers, the poor and the tribals. He recalled how he had fought alongside the tribals to save the Niyamgiri hills from the corporate houses. “In Niyamgiri, the Congress stood with you. We saved the hills together,” he said.
While Rahul made a whirlwind tour of Koraput and Nabarangpur districts, which account for two key Lok Sabha seats and 14 Assembly constituencies, chief minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik, too, was in the area trying to woo the tribal voters. He addressed around seven public meetings including one at Laxmipur, where the party has fielded Hema Gamang, wife of Giridhar Gamang, former chief minister and Congress candidate for the Koraput Lok Sabha constituency.
In the neighbouring Nabarangpur Lok Sabha constituency, Congress youth leader Pradeep Majhi, considered close to Rahul Gandhi, is attempting a second straight win. The BJD has pitted Balabhadra Majhi, an engineer, against Pradeep.
Naveen also stepped up his attack against the Centre accusing it of continued apathy towards the state.