The Telegraph
Sunday , April 6 , 2014
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Sonia slams Naveen over illegal mining

- Never ignored Odisha, says Cong president
Sonia Gandhi

Bhubaneswar, April 5: The Congress stepped up its poll campaign in the state’s tribal belt with its president Sonia Gandhi today accusing the BJD of being involved in the mining scam.

She also refuted Naveen’s allegations of not receiving liberal assistance from the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre.

Addressing a big rally in Nuapada district, which falls in the Kalahandi Lok Sabha constituency, Sonia almost reiterated what Rahul Gandhi had stated in Nabarangpur on March 31 during his election meeting.

“There is a huge mining scam here. Ores worth thousands of crores were looted from one mining pit. If we consider all the mining pits, the scams will cross lakhs of crores. It is a pity that the people of the mineral-rich state did not get any benefit from the sector. The people continue to remain poor,” said Sonia.

In the state, the Congress has made the mining scam a major poll plank and alleged that 60 families had looted Rs 60,000 crore. In its manifesto, the state Congress unit has promised to recover the money from them.

Wearing a peach-coloured Sambalpuri handloom sari, Sonia arrived at the meeting venue this afternoon at Khariar, a part of the KBK (Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput) region, which used to hit the headlines for acute poverty and starvation deaths. She attacked both the BJD and the BJP for misleading people on various issues. Congress nominee Bhakta Charan Das is seeking re-election from the Lok Sabha seat.

Sonia recalled that Rahul’s efforts were to protect the interests of the tribal people of Niyamgiri and stop the mining of bauxite on the Niyamgiri hills. “It was Rahul, who had visited Niyamgiri when the people were in trouble.”

Making a scathing attack on the Naveen Patnaik government, Sonia spoke about mining scam and the money deposit collection scam in which nearly 60 lakh people in the state had been cheated of Rs 20,000 crore.

Criticising the BJD for its anti-Centre stance even on trivial issues, Sonia said: “We have given crores of rupees to the state government without any bias. If you compare the amount of central funds that have come to Odisha in the past 10 years of the UPA rule with the money that reached the state under the NDA regime, you will see the ‘zameen-aasman’ difference.”

Sonia spoke about non implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in the area. “We are sending thousands of crores under the rural job scheme, so that people can stay at their own places and get employment. Did it happen? People are still leaving the area in search of jobs,” she said referring to the region, which is known for large-scale migration.

Without naming the BJP, Sonia cautioned people not to be swayed by the tall promises. “You should never trust these people, who show you dreams. You must realise that they are not with you at all as their only agenda is to grab the kursi (chair).”

Sonia also recalled how her family members had a soft corner for the people of the areas. “When the area was hit by a severe drought in 1967, Indiraji had come. Later, Rajivji had visited the area.”

BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi visited the area yesterday. While Naveen had made an extensive tour to the area twice over the past six days, Rahul addressed a rally here on March 31. The region will go to polls on April 10.

Today, Naveen visited Sambalpur and described the visit of central leaders to the state as “migratory birds”. Apart from speaking at the rallies on the same theme, the BJD has issued advertisements asking the national leaders of their contribution at the time of Phailin, which had hit the state last October.

“Where were they? Now, they are visiting the state only for votes,” Naveen said at his meetings.