She addresses a rally in the backward KBK region

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday said the country is passing through testing times and the people should carefully choose their representatives while exercising their franchise in the ensuing polls.

Without naming the Bharatiya Janata Party, Ms. Gandhi urged the people not to be misguided by those who were promising everything just to deviate from their stand at a later date.

“They are making tall promises with their eyes set on kursi and satta (chair and power),” Ms. Gandhi said, while addressing an impressive rally in this block headquarter town in Nuapada district in the backward Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput (KBK) region of Odisha.

Highlighting the achievements of the UPA government, Ms. Gandhi mentioned about the Forest Rights Act, Food Security Act and the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act that were aimed at benefitting the farmers, poor and tribal people.

She also reiterated her party’s promises listed in its manifesto to guaranteed free health care and housing facility for all.

Expressing concern over the condition of the people in this region that was synonymous with poverty, starvation and migration of labour, Ms. Gandhi said Congress always fought for the poor and downtrodden and will continue to do so in the future.

Special plan

Reminding the people about the contribution of her late husband Rajiv Gandhi who had taken the initiative to launch a special development plan for the KBK region, Ms. Gandhi said the process had not been completed as the Congress was out of power in the State for a long time.

She also mentioned the efforts made by her son and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi in supporting the struggle of the tribal people in preventing mining in the Niyamgiri hills in neighbouring Kalahadi district.

Countering the allegation being levelled by the ruling Biju Janata Dal about the Centre’s negligence in providing funds for Odisha’s development, Ms. Gandhi said the money given by the UPA government in the past ten years was many times more than what was given by the National Democratic Alliance Government, in which the BJD was a partner.

The Congress president also criticised the Naveen Patnaik Government for the series of scams that had surfaced in the State during its regime.

Listing the multi-crore mining scam, chit fund scam, MGNREGS scam, mid-day meal scam and dal scam,

Ms. Gandhi alleged that the funds reaching the State under various Central schemes were not being utilised properly.