Says his party wants a country where all Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs exist in harmony
All-India Congress Committee general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Thursday lashed out at Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for his alleged double-speak on the issue of secularism.
The country's unity and development were the prime objectives of the Congress, he said.
Kicking off his election campaign in Katihar constituency in Bihar, Mr. Gandhi dealt primarily with two issues: one of Mr. Kumar's association with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the other of Congress' determination to fight alone in Bihar to ensure proper development of the State.
Mr. Gandhi focussed on the issue of secularism keeping in mind the demographic profile of the electorate in the first phase of polling in 47 constituencies on October 21 — which falls in the Muslim-dominated belt — and attacked Mr. Kumar and the BJP for attempting to woo them.
Never referring to Mr. Kumar by name, Mr. Gandhi negated his approach of keeping at bay two BJP leaders from electoral canvassing and explained that one aligned with a party's policies and programmes and not with any leader of any political party. The Congress leader did not name Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi or Varun Gandhi.
“We want to eliminate that policy (BJP's communal agenda). We want a country where all Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs exist in harmony. It is not a question of two leaders.”
Mr. Gandhi time and again sought to expose Mr. Kumar's proximity with the BJP and how he had compromised on vital issues and crucial moments. “He (Mr. Kumar) supported Mr. Modi's government in Gujarat. He was in the National Democratic Alliance government and took no action. He remained silent when Biharis were being driven out of Maharashtra. That is because he was a Central Minister of the NDA.”
He questioned the claims of development in Bihar. “If there is development, then why this exodus,” he asked, holding the government responsible for the plight of the masses. “The fault is not with you . You are paving the path of growth in Maharashtra, Punjab and Haryana by the dint of your labour.”
The people of these States know very well that they could not do without your contribution. “The people of Bihar have kept States like Punjab going.”
Mr. Gandhi faulted the Janata Dal (United) led-NDA government for not providing roads, power and potable water to the people and derided their “attempt to divide the country and the State on caste and religious grounds.” He also referred to the RJD's failure in delivering goods to the people.
In his attempt to make a virtue of going it alone in Bihar elections, Mr. Gandhi said that the other major political parties were busy tying up partnerships and sharing of seats. “We want to talk of development so have decided to go it alone.”
“The path ahead is difficult. If we wanted we too could have easily had a tie up. Any delay on this count is not a point of bother as we stand for development and aim at involving the youth.”
He said that the Congress party governments in the States were doing well and the schemes for the poor such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) had been implemented in Andhra Pradesh and Haryana.
Charging that no progress had been made in Bihar, Mr. Gandhi said the Centre had provided more than Rs.1 lakh crore to the State, but it had not reached the people and alleged that the money had simply vanished.