ADDRESSING HIS first public rally in Bihar since taking over as Congress president, and with the Lok Sabha elections around the corner, Rahul Gandhi signalled Sunday that if his party’s government came to power at the Centre, it would waive loans of farmers across the country on the lines of what its newly formed governments had announced in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.
Gandhi also reiterated his promise made in Chhattisgarh, on January 28, that his party, if voted to power, would launch the policy of “minimum income guarantee to every poor person”. In his speech at the rally, RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav referred to Gandhi as “PM material”.
Accusing the BJP-led central government of handing out the country’s assets to “a few industrialists”, Gandhi said: “Humne keh diya hai Delhi mein agar Congress party ki sarkar aayegi, humne Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh aur Madhya Pradesh mein jo kiya tha woh poore desh me karne ja rahe hai. Chillalo jitna chillana hai Modiji, jitna bhashan dena hai de do. Aapne sadhe-char varsh mein kuchh nahin kiya, aapne kisan ka karza maaf nahin kiya (I have said that if the Congress party forms a government in Delhi, we will do what we did in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh in the entire country. You can shout as much as you want Modiji, deliver as many speeches as you want. You didn’t do anything in the four-and-a-half years, you didn’t waive the loans of farmers).”
Hitting out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said: “A few days ago, PM Narendra Modi had been clapping vigorously over Budget announcements. What historic job have they done?”
Referring to the Budget promise of Rs 6,000 every year to farmers, he said: “A farmer’s average comes to Rs 17 per day, which is insulting.”
On minimum assured income, Gandhi said: “We are not making any assurance that cannot be fulfilled. Please hear me out with all attention: We will give minimum assured income to each poor person.”
Gandhi was speaking at Gandhi Maidan in Patna, in the first such Congress rally in Bihar in 30 years that was also attended by Grand Alliance leaders, RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav, LJD’s Sharad Yadav, and former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi, and newly elected Congress chief ministers, Kamal Nath from MP, Ashok Gehlot from Rajasthan and Bhupesh Baghel from Chhattisgarh.
Gandhi also referred to how job-seekers from Bihar were “ill-treated” in states, such as Gujarat and Maharashtra, and how Bihar contributes only two per cent to the GDP.
But the Congress chief, significantly, did not level any direct allegation at Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, although he did accuse the JD(U) chief of “making tall promises like PM Narendra Modi”. The Congress was a minor partner in the Bihar ruling alliance, along with the JD(U) and the RJD, before the JD(U) parted ways to form the government with the BJP in 2017.
Gandhi, though, targetted Modi on a number of occasions, once asking the gathering of thousands if any had got Rs 15 lakh in their bank accounts in reference to a popular pre-Lok Sabha 2014 poll line of the BJP’s lead campaigner. “There used to be slogan of achhe din… Now, there is a slogan – chowkidar…”. On both occasions, many in the gathering completed the rival poll slogans of “…aayenge” and “…chor hai”.
Turning to Bihar, where his party is yet to wrap up seat-sharing negotiations with allies, Gandhi said: “People often refer to Punjab and Haryana for bringing the first Green Revolution, I have told the CMs of Chhattisgarh, MP and Rajasthan to bring the second Green Revolution from these states. I would like to include Bihar among these states… With Tejashwiji (Yadav) and Laluji (Prasad) and with (Jitan Ram) Manjhiji and (Upendra) Kushwahaji, we will play on the front foot, not on the back foot.”
Singling out RJD’s Tejashwi, Gandhi described him as “a young leader” who “has done good work” and “does not tell lies”.
Speaking at the rally, Tejashwi targetted Modi, calling him “a factory manufacturing lies and the RSS is its retailer”. “The PM had spoken about giving special status and special package to Bihar. But it was not given,” he said.
Kamal Nath and Baghel spoke about how they had waived loans of farmers as promised by Gandhi while Gehlot attacked the BJP’s “divisive agenda”.