Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday launched his party’s Lok Sabha campaign in Orissa with a scathing attack on the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) accusing it of perpetrating a series of scams in the state, including the Rs 60,000-crore mining scam.
“There has been massive loot of iron ore and manganese from the state,” Rahul said at a rally at Bhatapada village in Salepur area of Cuttack district. “Your money earned from coal, iron ore, manganese and different minerals are going to others’ pockets, while the state government is unable to run schools and hospitals,” he told the gathering, adding: “People of this amir (rich) state are garib (poor) because the money that the minerals in the state fetch do not reach you. It goes to the pockets of mining mafia and a handful of people.”
Urging the people to oust the Naveen Patnaik government, he said about 3,500 farmers have committed suicide in the state and above 10 lakh youths could not be given employment.
He referred to the Rangarajan Committee report to point out that Orissa topped the list of under developed states in the country. The Congress MP also accused the state government of siphoning off the money allotted by the Centre for various welfare schemes. “No previous government (UPA II) had ever given such a huge amount of money for the state. I am told Rs 5,000 crore is still lying unspent here. Though the Centre gives money to the state for mid day meal scheme, the funds go to fill others’ bellies. The state government also diverted the rice meant for the BPL families,” he said.
He also raked up the chit fund scam, saying 20 lakh poor investors were duped by the ponzi companies. “I had taken up the fight of the adivasis (tribals) in Niyamgiri and ensured their inalienable rights were restored. This fight must go on, “ he said, asking party workers to highlight all these issues in their campaign.
The BJD hit back at the Congress vice president, saying Rahul knew nothing about the state and that he was only mouthing the words of his party leaders. “He knows nothing about the history, geography and economics of the state. We suggest Rahul Gandhi to consult )Planning Commission deputy chairman) Montek Singh Ahlu-walia and the Union Finance Ministry for knowledge on the economic situation of the state before making any remarks. Both the Planning Commission and the Finance Ministry have lauded the progress of Orissa,” said BJD vice president Damodar Rout.
At Tri Nagar, Smriti Irani centered her speech around Modi, with over 10 references in 11-minute extempore.