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On campaign trail in Chhattisgarh: Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi trade barbs

Bastar, where Left Wing extremists have a huge influence, goes to polls on Monday

Archis Mohan  |  New Delhi 

demonetisation protest
Congress leaders protest against the Centre’s demonetisation decision two years ago at Parliament Street in New Delhi on Friday Photo: Dalip Kumar

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has a busy international itinerary next week, hit the campaign trail on Friday in poll-bound Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region, as did Congress President

Addressing a public rally in Jagdalpur, the PM accused the Congress of supporting “urban Maoists” and spreading lies.

The Congress chief, at a rally in Kanker, said Modi has forgotten his commitments made to youths and farmers in 2014, and has now taken to talk about Maoism to hide his government’s failures to deliver on those promises.

The Chhattisgarh Assembly has 90 seats, and 18 seats in Bastar, where Left Wing extremists have influence, are scheduled to vote on November 12, with campaigning ending on Saturday. Rest of the seats vote on November 20.

The PM is scheduled to travel to Singapore to attend the East Asia Summit on November 14 and 15, and will also attend the swearing-in ceremony of the Maldivian president-elect in Male on November 17.

The Congress is looking at ending the 15-year rule of Raman Singh-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state, where the last couple of elections have been decided by a difference in vote share between the two parties of a percentage point or less. A three-cornered contest, with Ajit Jogi-led Janata Congress Chhattisgarh, Bahujan Samaj Party and Communist Party of India alliance also in the fray, has queered the pitch for the Congress.

In his speech, the PM said BJP’s mantra was development, while that of Congress party’s was to lie incessantly. He said Congress supported “urban Maoists”, who travel in air-conditioned cars and their children study abroad but they get children of Bastar to wield guns instead of reading books. Alluding to a recent statement by Congress leader Raj Babbar where he had described naxalites as revolutionaries, Modi said Congress leaders were apologists for Maoists.

The PM didn’t respond to any of the Congress’s allegations on the Rafale fighter jet deal, but said Congress was adept at lying. He said Congress leaders born in palaces with silver spoons in their mouth cannot understand the problems faces by tribals, and said he has resolved to make Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s vision for Chhattisgarh a reality. The Vajpayee government had bifurcated Madhya Pradesh to create Chhattisgarh. Modi said 9,000 villages of Chhattisgarh have been linked with roads during the tenure of his government and he built a medical college and hospital in the state.

ALSO READ: Chhattisgarh polls: In first rally, Modi says Cong backs 'urban Maoists'

In Kanker, Gandhi said the PM has forgotten the promises he made to the people in 2014 of creating 20 million jobs a year, crack down on black money, depositing Rs 1.5 million in bank accounts of all Indians, and waiver of farm loans. “He no longer talks about any of this, but about naxalism. Earlier he used to talk about corruption, but no longer because chowkidar chor hai,” Gandhi said.

The Congress chief asked the people whether they saw people like Anil Ambani, Lalit Modi, Vijay Mallya, Mehuk Choksi and Nirav Modi stand in queues during demonetisation.

ALSO READ: Chhattisgarh polls phase 1: Can Congress maintain its edge over BJP, Jogi

“Why was it that those with black money didn’t stand in queues, but honest hard working people of India were forced to? Why is that Modi in his speeches no longer talks about ‘notebandi’ and ‘Gabbar Singh tax’?” Gandhi asked.

The Congress chief said Modi knows the people have seen through his ruse, and he would be driven out from the stage by people if he were to refer to demonetisation. Gandhi also explained the Rafale “scam” to the people, and said the Modi government is busy constructing two India’s, one that belongs to the rich and other for the poor.

He promised that a Congress government would announce a farm loan waiver within 10-days of forming a government, and has written off farm loans in Punjab and Karnataka.

“If Modi can write off Rs 3.5 trillion worth of loans of 15 richest Indians, why is that he cannot waive off farm loans,” Gandhi said. He said the Congress party has ensured minimum support price to farmers in Punjab and Karnataka, but the Raman Singh government in Chhattisgarh has failed on this front.

Gandhi said a Congress government will reopen 3,000 schools in tribal areas shut down by the Raman Singh government, and fill the over 60,000 vacancies in teaching posts. The Congress president also brought up the so called chit fund scam of the Raman Singh government, and said the chief minister’s son finds a mention in the ‘Panama papers’.

First Published: Fri, November 09 2018. 22:50 IST
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