Calling Maharashtra “the land of Shivaji,” Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday said some political parties were using the Maratha warrior’s name for political gains.
“You should be wary of such parties,” she said at her first election speech, in the State, here.
With Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) entering the electoral fray, every major party in the State has tried to appeal to Marathi voters. Incidentally, the MNS did well in Nashik in the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year.
However, Ms. Gandhi rubbished the prospects of her political opponents in the coming Assembly elections, saying, “parties other than the Congress have nothing to offer to people. They only make tall promises and play with people’s emotions. The Congress, on the other hand, has a rich tradition of working for the people.”
Among the Congress’ policies, she counted the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. “Earlier people had to migrate to other parts of the country because of unemployment. But not any more. The Act assures people of 100 days of employment in a year in their villages.”
Ms. Gandhi also spoke about the Rs. 71,000-crore loan waiver for farmers.
“The Congress-NCP government has decided to give 25 kg foodgrains at Rs. 3 per kg to the poor.”
Appealing to the minorities in the State, Ms. Gandhi invoked the social contributions of reformers Mahatma Phule, Babasaheb Ambedkar and Shahu Maharaj. The recommendations of the Sachar Committee report on Muslims would be implemented speedily, she said.
She tried to strike an emotional cord with the people of Nashik, calling it a “holy and historical land.” She reminded the people of the package the government had announced for grape and onion growers in the region. She also mentioned the work done to upgrade the road infrastructure in the region.
Chief Minister Ashok Chavan criticised his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi, claiming that 600 farmers were committing suicide in that State every year.
He said Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and NCP chief Sharad Pawar could not attend the rally because of floods in some parts of the State.
Ms. Gandhi’s visit, scheduled for Monday, itself had to be postponed because of the floods.