In his first rally after the Lok Sabha elections were announced on Wednesday, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi accused the BJP of being autocratic and only trying to empower one leader. But he said the Congress would succeed in driving out the party not with anger but “with love.”

“The BJP wants to keep power in the hands of one person. The Congress says there should be an open system and power should be with the people. But they want a closed system which will exclude people,” said Mr Gandhi, at a rally in Aurangabad. He is on a two-day tour of Maharashtra.

Mr Gandhi also attacked the BJP for double standards on the issue of corruption even as he shared the stage with former chief minister Ashok Chavan who has been charge-sheeted for the Adarsh scam. In January, Mr Gandhi had intervened and got the Congress-NCP government to reverse its decision to reject the Adarsh Commission’s report which had indicted Mr Chavan for extending political patronage to the building.

Mr Chavan hails from the Marathwada region where Aurangabad is located. “The BJP does not bring up the issue of corruption when their chief minister in Karnataka goes to jail. There are three corrupt ministers in the Gujarat cabinet,” he said. He claimed that the BJP had opposed the RTI, the Lokpal bill and six bills against corruption.

Countering the BJP’s slogan of a Congress-free India, Mr Gandhi said, “Those who speak of wiping out the Congress have not read India’s history. They call themselves Hindus but have not read the Gita. The Congress is not an organisation but an ideology which is in the hearts of the people.” He said the Congress ideology was to respect and listen to people.

Mr Gandhi claimed that the Congress would chase away the BJP not with anger but with love. “Those who tried to wipe out this ideology were chased away. The British were defeated by an ideology. The Congress sent them back with love. We will do the same with the BJP.”

Without naming Mr Modi, the Congress vice-president said, “It’s easy to come and speak from the stage. But to listen to people, a leader has to put his ego aside and bow his head. Until a leader does that and listens to women and the poor, there will be no change.”

Mr Gandhi said that while the leaders in Maharashtra had worked hard, they had not marketed themselves. Claiming the policies of the UPA had benefited the poor, he said that in the last 0 years, 14 crore people had been lifted over the poverty line because of schemes like NREGA and the Food Security Act.

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