On the first day of his two-day visit to Gujarat, his seventh in the last two months, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Friday zeroed in, yet again, on Rs 33,000 crore worth of “benefits” that he claimed were given to Tata Motors’s Nano car plant in Sanand, near Ahmedabad, to hit out at the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then the Gujarat Chief Minister.
At Porbandar, his first pit stop of the day, where he addressed a gathering of fisherfolk, Rahul said the state government was ready with money for “a few industrialists” but was not willing to spare Rs 300 crore on subsidised diesel and kerosene for fishermen.
Rahul subsequently visited a Dalit Shakti Kendra in Nani DEVATI village, about 25 km from Sanand, and told the gathering that the amount the Congress-led UPA spent on MGNREGA, the then Central government’s flagship employment generation scheme, was almost the same as what the Gujarat government handed out in “benefits” to the Tatas: Rs 35,000 crore to MGNREGA versus Rs 33,000 crore for the Nano factory. “But did you get any benefit from the factory? Do you drive a Tata Nano? Do you have a Tata Nano at home? Did your children get employment in the factory?” he asked.
At Ahmedabad, his third stop, where he had an interaction with members of the medical fraternity, Rahul said that if Rs 30,000 crore had been spent on health and education infrastructure, it would have completely transformed the health care sector in the state. The slogan “vibrant Gujarat”, he said, is “hollow’’ if the poor cannot get medical treatment and admission in medical colleges.
He promised the Congress will invest in health care and education and provide low-cost treatment, if it comes to power.
Addressing a meeting of fishermen of Juna Bandar, or old harbour, in Porbandar, the Congress leader rhetorically asked, “Why did I raise the Tata Nano issue?” He then went on to answer it: “The previous Congress government (in Gujarat) gave a subsidy — it has been stopped now, right? — that was extended to 5 lakh people. It covered 25 per cent of your expenses on diesel and petrol. The subsidy cost Gujarat government Rs 300 crore.”
“Rs 300 crore subsidy was snatched from you, (but) Rs 33,000 crore was given for Tata Nano. You lost land, electricity, water to the factory. And when I ask if you have seen Tata Nano, you say “no”. Then what kind of magic is this,” he asked.
The fishing community got subsidy on diesel and kerosene through a waiver of sales tax, and later VAT, which was stopped for some years between 2008 and 2012.
At the day’s last stop, in Nikol, near Ahmedabad, where Rahul interacted with teachers, the Amethi MP came off the dais to console one of the teachers, hugging her.
Dr Ranjana Awasthi, who did a PhD in Sanskrit in 1994, became emotional while sharing her woes as a part-time teacher: “Today, after 22 years, our pay is Rs 12,000… only Rs 12,000. While women are entitled to maternity leave, we did not get even that,” she said, pointing out one of the many facilities part-time teachers do not receive. “Please ensure that no woman goes through what we have gone through…”
At this, Rahul said there are times when questions cannot be answered in words, and went up to her in the centre of the hall and hugged her.