Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Monday accused the Modi government of promoting crony capitalism at a heavy cost to the small and medium industry, as he kicked off the Gujarat election campaign with a dialogue with the party rank and file.
“The debt of farmers in Gujarat is to the tune of Rs 36,000 crore but Tata Nano has been given Rs 60,000 crore loan at 0.01 per cent,” Gandhi told a huge gathering of party activists at the Sabarmati riverfront here.
“Can you see any Nano cars in Gujarat? How many youngsters got employment there?” Gandhi asked, as a 20,000-plus crowd of party workers from across the length and breadth of Gujarat applauded and listened with rapt attention.
“The Narendra Modi government works for select and handful of corporates. Some 50 of them.”
In reply to a question by a party worker from Narmada district about the media bias towards the BJP, Gandhi said: “Some six to seven corporate friends of Modi control the media. They are the same people who are breaking the back of farmers, tribals, workers and small and medium scale businesses.”
Gandhi, who spoke for about an hour, was directly interacting with the party workers and his speech was made up of answers to five questions raised one after another by them.
The party had set up a sprawling T-shape ramp for Gandhi to walk around and have a dialogue with the thousands of activists. He was accompanied by party General Secretary Ashok Gehlot, Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel, another General Secretary Madhusudan Mistry and Gujarat Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki.
Amid loud cheers and applause, Gandhi said: “This time the Congress will form a government in Gujarat. No one can stop this. The people have seen through the emptiness of the Gujarat model.” The Bharatiya Janata Party has ruled the state for 22 years.
“The truth can’t be swept under the carpet for long. The youth, farmers, small businessmen, nobody has benefitted in Gujarat,” he said.
Gandhi is on a day-long visit to Gujarat to kick off the party’s Assembly election campaign, with a focus on strengthening and revving up the party organization in the state.
In view of the recent setback to the party during the August 8 Rajya Sabha elections when 14 legislators quit the Congress and eight of them voted for the BJP against the official nominee Ahmed Patel, the opposition party is trying to ensure its flock remains together.
As part of this exercise, as many as 122 new office-bearers were recently inducted, including four working presidents, despite an existing full-time state chief.
Committees have been formed on on election, candidate selection, campaign and manifesto in a bid to accommodate functionaries from all regions.
It was towards this end that the Congress Vice President dwelt at length on issues relating to the organization when answering a question about influential persons walking away with the party’s election ticket at the cost of deserving candidates.
“Gehlot has been sent here to ensure that nobody gets ticket by parachute system,” Gandhi said.
“People working with dedication for Congress ideology at the grassroots will get ticket, not imported candidates. We need real, hard-working, sincere grassroots people.”
Similarly, when asked about senior leaders sabotaging prospects of genuine candidates just because their recommendations were not heeded, he asserted: “Whoever tries to defeat the Congress, howsoever big or small he or she may be, will not be tolerated. The Congress has no place for them, we don’t want them.”
Gandhi came down on the BJP over various issues including demonetization, Goods and Services Tax, lack of employment, health, education, issues concerning farmers, tribals, Dalits and Patidars.
Reaching out to small and medium businessmen, who have been traditionally with the BJP, Gandhi said: “Modiji’s entire focus is on top 50 businessmen but we will focus on the small and medium businesses who are the ones who give jobs.”
The fall of 2 per cent in GDP was a negative fallout of demonetization.
“Modiji gave Rs 60,000 crore to one company (Tata group for Nano project). If this money was given to small and medium enterprises of Gujarat, how much employment would they have generated?”
Pointing at China making inroad into every aspect of business in India, he said only the growth and sustenance of the small and medium-scale sector could help the country compete with the dragon and generate employment, not the big industry.
“I am not saying there should not be any focus on large industry, but in a country like India it cannot be ceded the entire space.
“Gujarat is the economic powerhouse of the country because of its small and medium scale industry and the huge trading class which could generate huge employment opportunities,” said the Congress leader.