Almora, January 21
Congress national president Sonia Gandhi today took on the BJP on the corruption issue and said the party was forced to change its Chief Minister in Uttarakhand following graft charges. She accused the BJP of “creating a wedge” between the hills and the plains.
“The BJP is responsible for widespread corruption in every nook and corner of the state. It was due to corruption that the BJP was forced to change its Chief Minister,” the Congress president said in her second election rally in the state in the run-up to the January 30 Assembly poll. BS Khanduri took over as Chief Minister from Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank in September last year in an apparent move by the BJP to lift its sagging image following graft allegations against the government.
Sonia struck a chord with the people of this ‘cultural city’ and went on to further consolidate the tempo set by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a day before at Rudrapur while campaigning for Congress candidates from Kumaon.
Sonia criticised the BJP government in the state for having ignored the common people and bringing the development process initiated by the Congress to a standstill.
Addressing a capacity crowd at the Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna Stadium here, she said Jawaharlal Nehru had spend several years of his life in the Almora jail. “Our family has strong ties with Almora,” she said amid a thunderous applause. She added Almora was a place of immense importance as people like Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi had been associated with it and poet Sumitra Nandan Pant was born here.
She said, ”Things have gone from bad to worse for the people and the future of the youth is dark.” She added, “The hill districts of the state are being provided with only 13 per cent of power. Do they think the people living here can do with light of the sun and the moon?”
“They have been practising divisive politics and promoting disparities between hills and plains,” she said.
Sonia accused the BJP government of not promoting new industries in the state and said it had destroyed whatever industry existed already. “Nothing is being done to check the migration of the youth. Farmers are in trouble and women are being ignored,” she said and pointed out that no attempts had been made to fill posts meant for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
“It is clear that the BJP ignored the interests of the people and the state. A large number of funds have been given by the Centre to the state, which the BJP has not used,” she said.
Sonia claimed that the Congress had always given a preferential treatment to Uttarakhand, which had lagged behind in development. She said the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Roorkee, Institute of Hotel Management, Gobind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology at Pantnagar and the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at Rishikesh were established due to the efforts of the Congress.
“The Congress had approved a medical college and a hospital in Almora which the BJP government totally ignored,” she said.
She also pointed towards the projects like starting of a horticultural training centre near Ranikhet and an agriculture research institute that have been mentioned in the party manifesto. She concluded her speech saying, “We deliver what we promise.”
SidelightsThe Congress rally held at Almora on Saturday was clearly a Harish Rawat show. Rawat went on to prove that he had a strong mass base among the electorate in this part of the state. It was he who set the tone for party president Sonia Gandhi to launch a fiery attack on the BJP government in the state. Rawat began by underlining four demands of the region. He asked Sonia for an economic and educational package to the state, an agricultural and horticultural package for the hilly regions, a package which would link the livelihood of the masses to water conservation and a technical institute or a central university for the Kumaon region.
Rally a Harish Rawat show
Pro-Harish Rawat slogans raisedThe culture of sycophancy for which the Congress party is well known was visible at length during the rally. It is a known fact that this is Union Minister and senior Congress leader Harish Rawat’s home turf. It is also a known fact that the Congress never proposes a name for the post of a Chief Minister. But a whole lot of Congres leaders went on to announce from the stage that Rawat would be the next Chief Minister of Uttarakhand. Even slogans were aired on this count.
Leaders address public in KumaoniThe impact that communication in local language has on the masses was on a display during the Congress rally. Both Harish Rawat and his son Anand Singh Rawat went on to intersperse their address with Kumaoni which was well appreciated by the masses. Harish Rawat spoke at length in Kumaoni describing party president Sonia Gandhi as a daughter of the hills in the local dialect. He also made fervent appeals to the people to vote for the Congress, again in the local dialect.
Sun shines on rally venueHaving disillusioned the politicians during the earlier phase of the poll campaign in the state, the weather gods finally decided to smile at the Congress. After a successful rally by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Rudrapur on Friday, the rally by Sonia Gandhi also proved to be a success. The bright sunshine allowed the people to easily reach the venue and there was no hindrance in the flight schedule of the Congress president. On an earlier occasion, she had failed to turn up at a rally in Haldwani on the account of the fog playing a spoilsport. Meanwhile, a large number of people, who had come to attend the rally, preferred to stay perched on the hillside adjacent to the ground to take in some sun as they listened to the local leaders and later Sonia Gandhi. The hillside was dotted with a large number of people. It was only when the two Lok Sabha members, Pradeep Tamta and Harish Rawat, made fervent appeals to the people to occupy the carpet-covered ground that some of the people came down while a large number of them remained perched where they were. Rajya Sabha member RC Khuntia, who was managing the stage, was pretty disturbed by this phenomenon but Harish Rawat could be heard telling him that it was a routine practice in the hills.