A day after the audience at his khaat sabha took home the cots following the event, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi used the episode to target the Central government. “If a poor farmer takes away a cot, you call him a thief, but when big industrialists like Vijay Mallya flee with thousands of crores of rupees, you call them defaulters. That is the difference,” Rahul said about the incident at Rudrapur in Deoria, which had overshadowed the opening day of his yatra.
Rahul and the Congress have in the past targeted the NDA government over Mallya, chairman of the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines, leaving the country.
The Congress vice-president has been holding roadshows, khaat sabhas and door-to-door interactions with farmers in Uttar Pradesh for the last two days to turn around his party’s fortunes in the poll-bound state. But he has not targeted the ruling Samajwadi Party or the BSP in his speeches, instead focussing on the Narendra Modi government and giving the state elections a national touch — a tactic that has taken even Congressmen by surprise.
Neither has Rahul mentioned the name of Sheila Dikshit, the 78-year-old former Delhi chief minister who has been picked as the party’s chief ministerial face in the state, where the Congress has been out of power for 27 years. Even at Rahul’s khaat sabha, there were no photographs of Dikshit in the background.
Rahul’s comments on the khaat sabha incident are in line with what his party colleagues have been saying since Tuesday. Some of them also claimed the cots were a gift to farmers, and that the party never intended to keep them.
On Wednesday, during a roadshow in Gorakhpur and a door-to-door campaign in Sahjanwa area, Rahul reiterated his “suit-boot” jibe at the PM. “Janta trast hai, Modiji mast hain (public suffers, Modi uncaring),” he told the public. “Modi ji, if you want to run a suit-boot ki sarkar, you do that. We cannot stop it. But when you can waive off the debts of big industrialists, why don’t you write off the debts of poor farmers? Why don’t you help the poor and the weak?”
Rahul’s yatra will pass through the temple town of Ayodhya on Friday.