Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Thursday urged the people to “awaken” against a political conspiracy to mislead them by hyping up emotive and irrelevant issues to divert their attention from the real concerns.
Addressing a women’s conference in Chhattisgarh, Priyanka said: “There are politicians who divert your attention to ensure that you don’t ask the right questions. They don’t want the focus on jobs, the unbearable price rise, roads, water, health, education…. It is sad but this form of politics has taken over.”
Pointing out that the venue of the conference, Bhilai, symbolised how the foundation of modern India was laid, she said: “In 1955, Jawaharlal Nehru decided to set up
the steel plant here. These public sector units were the symbol of a different kind of politics. This politics was born out of the value system developed during the freedom struggle.”
Priyanka added: “I am not here to ask for your vote. I seek your awakening. Wake up and enforce accountability. Ask the leaders who come and mislead you in the name of caste and religion what they will do for you. Use your consciousness to decide what is good for you. Restore that era of politics when principles, value system and accountability mattered. If you vote on the basis of religious passions, leaders will never care for your interest.”
She recalled two anecdotes from her experience in Uttar Pradesh. “As a child, I accompanied my father (Rajiv Gandhi) to Amethi. He was driving a jeep himself and I was sitting with him. In one village, a woman very harshly scolded him. He was the
Prime Minister and this woman berated him for the plight of the road. I felt hurt. Later, I asked my father whether he too felt bad. He said, ‘No, it is her right to question me. It is her duty to point out the problems and demand solutions from me’.”
Another event she narrated was from her experience 40 years later when she was campaigning at a village in Uttar Pradesh. “I went inside a hut to talk to a woman. She was cooking on a chulha. She said she could not get the cylinder refilled. She angrily complained about the lack of jobs and the absence of basic amenities. When I asked her about her vote, she said that was reserved for the sitting MLA. Why? Because of two factors — caste and religion.”
Alleging that the central government was putting an additional burden on the poor through the savagely rising prices and unemployment, Priyanka said: “Modiji recently organised a G20 summit. We have no objection to any event that enhances the country’s prestige. But thousands of crores were spent. He spent Rs 20,000 crore on building the new Parliament. He purchased two aircraft worth Rs 8,000 crore each. People are struggling for basic needs; the back-breaking prices have made their lives miserable. Farmers are earning Rs 27 a day while his capitalist friends earn Rs 1,600 crore in a day.”
Arguing that the Prime Minister can’t forget the ground reality, she said: “The central government has snatched from the poor and the middle class to benefit corporates. All the public sector units, airports, ports… are being sold to crony capitalists. You are lucky to have a government that cares for your interests, protects you from the burdens mounted by the Centre. We are offering some help to you in running your household.” The Congress is in power in Chhattisgarh.
Priyanka told the people: “Ask questions of our governments too. You will get answers. The farmers of Chhattisgarh who get the maximum price for paddy in the country will give the answer; the women and youth will give the answer. Over 10 lakh women are earning through self-help groups, free education is given to girls up to graduation, Anganwadis are getting Rs 10,000 a month, mobile clinics are providing free medicare and the youth are getting unemployment allowance.”
The Congress has evolved a welfare model designed to sustain the household activities of the poor that Modi has condemned as “rewdi culture” — a reference to freebies.
Even in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, Congress general secretary K.C. Venugopal pointed to the financial empowerment of women in Karnataka through the Rs 2,000-a-month cash payout scheme and free bus travel. The Congress is also providing gas cylinders for Rs 500 apiece, describing it as a cushion against the Modi government’s price assault.
The Opposition has identified the allegedly diversionary tactics of the Modi government as a major crisis in contemporary politics — even the women’s reservation bill was described as a ploy to hijack the national discourse because the quota may not materialise in years.