Two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a rally of over 35,000 people in Goa’s capital Panjim, Monday saw Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi take on the BJP leadership at a rally in Mapusa, the constituency of the deputy chief minister Francis D’Souza, a BJP MLA, with a lesser crowd of about 18,000 people. The rally, which was to begin at 4 pm, was delayed by an hour, with Rahul arriving a little after 5 pm, his chopper landing outside the rally venue and a dozen Congress seva dal members gathered to present a guard of honour to their leader. Singer Sidhanath Buyao, son of Ulhas Buyao, a lyricist whose songs during the Goa Opinion poll – the only plebiscite conducted in India – helped Goans vote against a merger with Maharashtra, performed songs that hit out at the ‘U-turn sarkar’ as well as those in praise of the Congress Party.
WATCH WHAT ELSE IS IN THE NEWS
Goa’s former Congress chief ministers – Luizinho Faleiro (who is also the Congress Pradesh president), Pratapsing Rane, Digambar Kamat and Ravi Naik, took to the podium, each lashing out against the BJP government and in praise of the Congress high-command. “Rahul Gandhi is going to be the next prime minister,” Ravi Naik said, while Luizinho Faleiro thanked Congress president Sonia Gandhi for her sacrifice in stepping aside and letting Dr Manmohan Singh become the Prime Minister. “In the entire world, there is no example of someone who has made such a sacrifice,” Faleiro said.
Speaking on Martyrs Day, Rahul Gandhi payed tribute to the Mahatma, with a garland and a two-minute silence. In his twenty minute address, Rahul began by saying every visit to Goa has taught him something new. “Goa ke natural tarikha pyaar hai,” he said, adding that there was no space for hatred among the people of the state that respected diversity. “People don’t just come here for your beaches, they come here because they know you are a peace loving people.. they know the Goan spirit.”
Rahul spoke of how, earlier in the day, he had to attend a court hearing in Bhiwandi, where he is facing a defamation case for alleging that the RSS was behind the murder of Mahatama Gandhi. “When I went there, there were Congress workers as well.. they were all happy and smiling.. but behind me, the RSS members were sitting like this.. with their arms folded.”
Recalling a conversation Priyanka Gandhi had with a senior BJP leader on a flight. “She told me, Rahul, they all seem very angry… I don’t know why… they don’t smile… they talk well but they’re angry.” The reason for their anger, Rahul claimed, was because they think they know everything. “When they talk in Parliament, they say ‘you will not understand this’. When this truth is revealed, that their theories don’t work, they get angry.” “There’s a zameen asmaan difference between their ideology and yours,” he added.
He also referred to Prime Minister Modi’s earlier speech, wherein he promised to bring in development as well as 50,000 jobs to the youth, saying there was a contradiction when he (Modi) wants to define youth as those who have passed standard 10 and at the same time push for the privatisation of schools and make them expensive. “The whole of Goa knows that the youth here have not got jobs, that corruption is still prevalent.. the Prime Minister himself knows that he’s lying…”
“Modiji bolte bahut hai.. achche bhi bolte hai, lekhin sunte kissi ki nahi. Pure desh ko bolte hai mere mann ki baat sunno, magar kabhi kissi se nahi kaha bhaiyya mann ki baat batao. Kabhi suna hai? Nahi. Kyunki yeh to Modiji ka tarikha nahi hai, na yeh BJP ke tarikha hai, na ye RSS ke tarikha hai. Yeh Congress ka tarekha hai,” Rahul said to an applause.
“The Congress party will not compromise on this, we will listen to what the people have to say and we will root out corruption from the state,” he said, adding that the list of candidates in this election saw 60 per cent new faces, terming it a “clean sheet”… we will not give you a dictator.”
Dig at Manohar Parrikar
Rahul also targeted Union Defence Minister and former Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar, saying that one person alone cannot run Goa. “The reality is that your state is not governed in Goa, it is controlled in Delhi, via remote control… what Modiji wants, what your minister in Delhi wants, that’s what happens in Goa,” an apparent dig at Parrikar, without naming him.
As the crowd walked away, a few metres away, speakers at a BJP rally were turned on. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari was to arrive and campaign for D’Souza in his constituency. With barely four days left for campaigning to come to an end, political parties are doing their best, hoping to outdo their rivals.