A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused Congress leaders of making statements to “protect urban Maoists”. Congress president Rahul Gandhi hit back on Saturday by recalling the death of several senior Chhattisgarh unit leaders of the party in an attack by Left-wing extremists and said the party needs no lessons on nationalism from Modi.
Addressing a rally at the same venue as Modi’s in Jagdalpur, Rahul said Congress workers and leaders had made “true sacrifices”, and the party is full of “martyrs”.
Saturday was the last day of campaigning for the first phase. Twelve seats in Bastar, and six from Rajnandgaon, Chief Minister Raman Singh’s constituency, go to the polls on November 12.
Beginning his speech by referring to Modi’s comments on “urban Maoists”, Rahul said, “Aapne abhi Nand Kumar Patel-ji, Karma-ji ki yaad ki. Mai kehna chahta hoon ki yahan Pradhan Mantri-ji ne Naxaliyon ki baat ki. Magar sachcha sacrifice Congress party ke Chhattisgarh ke netaon ne kiya hai. Humaare logon ne desh ke liye, Chhattisgarh ke liye…yahan Nand Kumar Patel-ji ne, Karma-ji apni jaan di hai (You remembered Nand Kumar Patel, Mahendra Karma just now. I want to say that the Prime Minister spoke of Naxals at this venue. But the ultimate sacrifice has been made by Chhattisgarh Congress leaders — sacrifice for our people, for Chhattisgarh, for the country… Nand Kumar Patel and Mahendra Karma gave their lives.)”
Maoists had attacked a convoy Congress leaders in Bastar in 2013 and killed 27 people, including senior Congress leaders Patel and Karma.
Connecting Maoist violence to the Rafale fighter jet deal, Rahul said, “And who talks of Naxals? The Prime Minister does. He came here and disrespected Karma-ji, Patel-ji and workers of the Congress. Wherever he goes, he talks of the Army, of nationalism, of the CRPF and the BSF. So I thought I will talk a little about it too.”
In the UPA government, he said, top officers said the Air Force required aircraft. “The UPA government said please select the best aircraft in the world —- for eight or nine years the Air Force did its processes of selecting aircraft. They saw different aircraft and selected the Rafale. (Then PM) Manmohan Singh-ji and (then Defence Minister A K) Antony-ji put two conditions: first, the aircraft will be made by HAL (public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited). Yes, the aircraft is from France, but the youth of India need jobs, and technology will be transferred. (So) the youth here will build this aircraft.
“Second, it will be bought at the cheapest possible price. The honest officers of the Air Force…negotiated a deal of Rs 526 crore per aircraft.”
After the Narendra Modi government came in, Rahul alleged, “The man who talks of nationalism, of Naxalism every day, the same man went to France and with him in the delegation was Anil Ambani. They changed the contract. Anil Ambani has not built an aircraft in his life…. Narendra Modi bought an aircraft valued at Rs 526 crore (under the UPA) for Rs 1,600 crore. He snatched the contract from HAL and gave it to Anil Ambani. What is Anil Ambani’s qualification? He is Narendra Modi’s friend.”
Modi, he said, “should explain to the CRPF, the BSF and their jawans why he gave their money to Anil Ambani. Why did the President of France tell the media that he was told that if they wanted the contract to sideline HAL and give it to Anil Ambani?”
Rahul also said, “Don’t give us lessons on nationalism. Our party has a long list of martyrs – and when our leaders were fighting against the British, when they were spending 15-20 years in prison, your (Vinayak) Savarkar-ji was bending before the British with folded hands, asking for forgiveness. Don’t tell us about nationalism —- (instead) tell the country about Rafale.”
He said the Prime Minister came to Bastar and disrespected Nand Kumar Patel and Mahendra Karma. “You are the Prime Minister. We respect you. But you cannot disrespect our people, our PCC chief, our martyrs. You cannot insult Congress workers. You should explain to the nation why you stole Rs 30,000 crore and gave it to your friend.”
Rahul addressed three rallies in Bastar on the last day of campaigning.