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Divide-and-rule slur on NaMo

Nagaon, April 19: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi today went all guns blazing at the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, accusing him of practising the “divide-and-rule” formula of the British to capture power.

“The British first divided the Hindus and Muslims and ruled our country for 300 years. Modi is doing the same for power. He is inciting anger among Hindus against Muslims, inciting Maharashtrians against Biharis and the organisation he belongs to (RSS) is beating up girls visiting pubs in Karnataka,” Rahul said.

He was addressing over 20,000 people, including party workers, at an election rally at Dawson School playground here this morning.

Rahul, accompanied by chief minister Tarun Gogoi, reached the venue at 11.30am and spoke for about half-an-hour.

The Congress vice-president also claimed that the Congress’s job was to unite people.

“What Srimanta Xankardev had done in Assam, Mahatma Gandhi did in the rest of the country. Congress is a party of the Mahatma. Modi will create trouble between the Hindus and Muslims,” he said, amid anti-Modi chants by his party members.

Bordowa, the birthplace of 15th century Vaishnavite saint Srimanta Xankardev, is about 16km from where Rahul addressed today’s rally.

Rahul was here to campaign for Congress candidate Jon Jonali Baruah, who is likely to face a tough fight against BJP’s Rajen Gohain, who is the MP from Nowgong constituency since 1999.

The venue of Rahul’s rally was about 7km from Borghat where Modi addressed his third rally of the day, about an hour-and-a-half after the Congress vice-president concluded his speech. Borghat is 122km from Guwahati and 100km from Kaziranga National Park.

This was the two leaders’ fourth visit to Assam for electioneering, starting with Modi’s rally in Guwahati on February 8.

Labelling Modi’s development formula as one for the rich and capitalists, Rahul said the UPA government, in its 10-year term, had managed to bring 15 crore people out of poverty through NREGA and other schemes. These include the food security scheme. The poor remained poor during the NDA term, he alleged.

Rahul also promised free concrete houses for the poor, free medicine in hospitals and Nagaon a manufacturing hub.

“Be it a T-shirt, a watch or a pair of shoes, most of them are made in China. Why are they not made in Assam or made in Nagaon? I want the goods we use to have the stickers saying made in Assam or made in Nagaon. We have set up industrial corridors and will connect Assam with that corridor to make it a manufacturing hub,” Rahul said, ostensibly sending a message to young voters who move out of the Northeast in search of jobs.

Terming women empowerment one of the important agendas of Congress government, he said the UPA government had introduced a bill to make 33 per cent reservation for women a reality only to be stalled by the BJP in Parliament.

“Our first job in the new government will be to pass the women’s reservation bill. We will set up 2,000 women police stations and 25 per cent of the jobs in our police force will be reserved for women. We will connect more women with banks for loans,” the Congress vice president said.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi, too, attacked Modi’s development formula. He concluded his speech today with chants of “Jai Hind” as well as “Khuda Hafiz”, apparently to strike a chord with the Muslim voters. Gogoi normally concludes his speeches with “Jai Hind” only.

Abu Hanifa, 62, a Muslim from Kathoni village, about 25km from here, who attended the rally said would vote for Congress because of the benefits he got from Congress government. “I got the rice card (34kg rice at Rs 2 per kg) and our panchayat leaders promised me a house after the election,” said Hanifa, with praise for two Assam ministers, Rakibul Hussain (who holds the panchayat and rural development portfolio) and Nazrul Islam (food and civil supplies).