Kolkata: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi today came down heavily on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing him of trying to deflect attention away from the NDA government’s “unfulfilled promises”, and also targeted West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as he questioned her “friendship” with BJP.
At a rally here, he sought to project Congress as the viable third alternative for the state, saying his party will bring a change in the fortunes of West Bengal, where Assembly polls are due in 2016. Alluding to the bonhomie between BJP and Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress as she heads to Bangladesh during Modi’s visit there, Gandhi said, “When our (UPA) government was there, our PM wanted to go to Bangladesh. We spoke to her and requested her to go with us. She said no, ‘ekla chalo re’ (I will go alone).
“Now, Modiji is there, so no ‘ekla chalo re’. We will go together. Why is this happening? What is the friendship about? You must be knowing the reason.” In his over 20-minute speech, Gandhi lambasted Banerjee, an erstwhile UPA ally, saying that contrary to her promise of freeing West Bengal from the “persecution” under the Left, she had “doubled” it after becoming chief minister of West Bengal. Congress and TMC had fought the 2011 Assembly elections together in the state which had brought to an the 35-year rule of the Left in West Bengal. Turning his guns on the prime minister, Gandhi accused him of not fulfilling his promises and repeated his jibe of “suit- boot ki sarkar” to paint the Modi government as “pro-rich” and “anti-poor” and “anti-farmer”. He also slammed the NDA government over the land Bill as he referred to the agrarian and tribal agitations in Nandigram, Bhatta Parsaul and Niyamgri.
“One year back, a new government came in Delhi. It made a lot of promises like the ones made by Mamata ji. It talked about employment, development, opening factories. Both (Modi and Mamata) said this. One year (of Modi government) has been completed now. “He talked about sanitation. He said that you won’t get employment and so hold a broom and start sweeping. When the talk of ‘swachchata’ is over, now he is saying that go and do Yoga on Rajpath. There is no word about employment. Every day something new is said. All these new things are being said to cover up the unfulfilled promises,” Gandhi said.
The Congress Vice President also attacked the Modi government over the ‘One Rank, One Pension’ issue. “Money was given for the OROP for ex-jawans during the UPA regime. Before (Lok Sabha) elections, Modi ji went to Punjab, Haryana, everywhere, and promised that he will implement it within one year if his government came to power. Now, the armymen are crying. They are holding agitation and demanding that a date should be given for implementing it.
“But Modi is saying ‘ask us later as we are doing Yoga’,” said Gandhi. Repeatedly attacking the Modi government over the land Bill, he claimed that even though the NDA dispensation will give land to industrialists, jobs will not come to people. He said that industrialists are not demanding land in some remote area but in places like Gurgaon, Noida and Kolkata,where property prices are rising. Gandhi said that while Congress wants that farmers whose land is acquired in these areas also benefit from the appreciation in land prices, NDA government will only give the land to industrialists without any benefit from it accruing to the people.
The Congress Vice President also reserved some of his fire for the Left parties, saying that when West Bengal was under their rule, “they used to hit the state hard with the hammer”. “They (Left parties) had the organisation here. While the rest of the country moved forward, this state got stuck,” he said, adding that he had thought things would change after the 2011 state polls. Pointing at TMC’s party symbol, which bears an image of flowers, Gandhi said he had thought that the softness of petals would replace the blow of ‘hammer and sickle’ (election symbol of CPI-M) when Banerjee came to power in the state. “Now, it comes to fore that the flower is making a harder blow than the hammer. Mamata ji had done it all the more efficiently and deeply than what they (CPI-M) had done,” he said. The “suppression” of people that happened during the Left rule has now increased all the more, he alleged.
Claiming that Mamata is doing what the Left had done earlier, Gandhi said, “One crore youths are unemployed as per the state government records. She said I will bring industry, where is the industry? Has any industry come? “She said she will stop atrocities committed during Left Front rule. She has doubled such atrocities,” he alleged. Recalling his remarks in an earlier speech, Gandhi said that while the Left Front used to put brakes on development even though it was in the vehicle (government), Banerjee “put both the legs on the brakes” and then said she will run the vehicle. The Congress Vice President, who has a number of times accused Modi of centralising all powers in his hands, also appeared to draw a parallel between the prime minister and Banerjee. Referring to Rabindranath Tagore’s famous ‘Ekla Chalo Re’ song, Gandhi said that while it actually meant that you go alone to tackle your problems if nobody else comes with you, Banerjee was “wrongly interpreting” it.
“She thinks of running West Bengal on her own without asking anyone. What she says is done. It does not matter to her what her party leaders are saying or what the youths of Bengal are saying,” claimed Gandhi. He told the people at the rally that if they wanted the vehicle of development to run fast in West Bengal, then they should “ask Banerjee to leave the vehicle and put Congress in the vehicle”. Banerjee’s party, the biggest ally of Congress in UPA-II, had pulled out of the government in September, 2012. Even when the two parties were together in government in the state and at the Centre, they had an uneasy relationship. After the parting of ways with Banerjee, a large number of Congress leaders in West Bengal wanted the party to not go for any tie-up in the future with TMC. Congress and TMC had separately contested the last Lok Sabha elections.