Says nothing will be done against people’s wishes

Mixing politics and development in equal measure in his speeches during a whistle-stop campaign tour of the State on Saturday, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi said that his party would stand by the wishes of the people of Kerala on the recommendations of the K. Kasturirangan committee on protection of the Western Ghats.

Speaking at Kasaragod, Kattappana, Chengannur, and Attingal, forming part of the four constituencies where Congress candidates are in the fray for the April 10 Lok Sabha elections, Mr. Gandhi said though protection of environment was important, the wishes of the people of the region and the State could not be overlooked. Nothing would happen in the State against the wishes of the people, he said to loud cheers from the gathering at Kattappana, one of the main centres of the anti-Kasturirangan panel agitation. Touching on political issues, Mr. Gandhi took a dig at the Bharatiya Janata Party’s failure to bring out its manifesto. “BJP is in such a plight that it could not even bring out its manifesto,” he said and pointed out that the Congress had brought out its manifesto based on consultations with the people. He told his listeners that a vote cast for the CPI(M) would indirectly help the BJP to come to power at the Centre.

The Congress vice-president, accompanied by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and KPCC president V.M. Sudheeran at all his meetings, also listed his party’s plans for the future if elected to power.

These included creation of 100 million jobs by building industrial corridors linking Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata to replace China as the world’s manufacturing capital. The Kochi-Coimbatore and Thiruvananthapuram-Madurai corridors would be linked to the national corridor. The Congress, he said, proposed to implement a project aimed at taking the 70 crore people who had risen above the Below the Poverty Line (BPL), but could not become true middle class, to middle class economic status.

Lessons from Kerala

Mr. Gandhi was all praise for Mr. Chandy’s ‘mass contact programme’ and said it ensured that everybody had a say in governance in Kerala. He also lauded Kerala’s record in women’s empowerment and said there was much to learn from Kerala’s achievements in power devolution. There was also pat for the collective leadership of the State Congress unit. (With inputs from Kasaragod, Kattappana (Idukki), and Pathanamthitta.)

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