On a day Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi severely criticised the government on the Land Bill in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, at least three ministers of the National Democratic Alliance unleashed a strong counter offensive against him, taking the fight to his backyard – his Parliamentary constituency Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.
Union HRD minister Smriti Irani, who had contested the Lok Sabha poll from Amethi as the BJP candidate, and Minister of State for Agriculture Sanjeev Baliyan held a Kisaan Panchayat (Farmer’s conference) in Mr Gandhi’s constituency. The two distributed cheques of compensation to farmers whose crops were damaged in the unseasonal rains in March and April. Meanwhile, Minister for Food Processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal accused Mr. Gandhi of “furnishing lies and indulging in politics of deception” on the issue of cancellation of the proposed Amethi Food Park. Mr Gandhi had last week hit out directly at Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying he was pursuing ‘politics of vengeance’ while raising the issue in Parliament. Ms Badal today clarified in the Lok Sabha that the ‘inordinate delay’ by the promoter company in meeting the “pre-conditions for final approval, in-principle approval accorded to the project by the Ministry was cancelled”. Outside, she told reporters: “Rahul Gandhi wanted to take the benefit of launching a food park in the elections. Why did he go ahead and lay the foundation stone when there was no approval.”
Since his return from his sabbatical, Mr Gandhi has constantly targeted the Modi government inside and outside Parliament. BJP sources said the party has decided to go on the offensive each time Mr Gandhi criticises Mr Modi. “Each time he raises an issue we will counter it with facts and figures on the UPA government’s performance in that sector and expose these desperate attempts to malign the government,” a BJP leader told The Hindu . In Amethi, Ms Irani accused Mr Gandhi of not doing enough for his constituency despite being in power for a decade. “The less said about him the better. It is for the people of Amethi to judge, they have said no one came here to enquire. Rahul Gandhi is not the first time Amethi MP. He was their MP for 10 years when UPA was in power. If he so desired, Amethi could have had benefits of development long ago,” Ms Irani said in Amethi. Mr. Baliyan said: “If Rahul Gandhi wants to see the plight of the farmer, he should come and see it in his constituency.”
More allegations and counter allegations are expected to fly in the coming days as Ms Irani is scheduled to go back to Amethi on May 26 and enrol residents for the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana. She has promised to pay the first year’s premium for the policy for nearly 30,000 poor residents of the constituency. “I hope she’s getting the food park back,” Mr Gandhi told reporters outside Parliament while reacting to Ms Irani’s visit.