Campaigning for 1st phase ends in Chhattisgarh; Shah, Rahul trade barbs

Raipur: With the campaigning for the first phase of the Assembly elections ending in Chhattisgarh on Saturday, BJP President Amit Shah and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi traded barbs at each other over what they had done for the benefit of the state.

Shah released the party’s manifesto and held a road show in Rajnandgaon, the home turf of Chief Minister Raman Singh, while Gandhi addressed three public meetings in Kondagaon, Jagdalpur and Kanker besides meeting several stakeholder groups including NGOs, civil society members and representatives of the Satnami Samaj, an influential community in the state politics.

While releasing the manifesto, Shah hit out at the Congress accusing it of being a “Maoist sympathiser” and said that the BJP government under Raman Singh has made the state nearly Maoist-free and developed it into a power hub of prospering cement, steel and aluminium industries, besides making rapid progress in education and health.

“Raman Singh has made a successful effort to change Chhattisgarh in the last 15 years. The biggest achievement of the Bharatiya Janata Party regime here is that it has tightened the noose on the Maoists.

“It has almost freed the state from the insurgents,” the party chief said, adding that now, when Raman Singh returns to power, he will focus on making the state a digital hub.

The BJP promised to give Rs two lakh interest free loans to women to start their business; to distribute free books and uniforms to students till Class 12; formation of journalist welfare board and to build a film city in the state among others if voted to power.

Attacking the Congress, Shah said: “The party which sees Maoism as a medium for revolution can never do welfare for the state.”

He said by providing cooking gas cylinders, electricity, education and health services to the poor and bringing happiness on the faces of farmers his party has brought about a “revolution”.

Taking on the opposition Congress, Shah said that the party which ruled India since Independence failed to deliver development in the states.

Gandhi, at a public meeting in the Kondagaon area, hit back at the BJP by mocking Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his silence on the issues of corruption, demonetisation and GST and termed Raman Singh and Modi as “corrupt”.

“Chhattisgarh is a prosperous state, but the BJP government steals from the people and helps 15-20 of its rich industrialist friends. Your natural resources are distributed among the rich. Chhattisgarh is the poorest state in India,” he said.

Attacking Raman Singh, Gandhi said the “Chief Minister here is corrupt.”

“Prime Minister says he fights corruption. But when it comes to Chhattisgarh, he doesn’t say that the Chief Minister (Raman Singh) is corrupt.”

Giving examples of corruption in the state, the Congress leader alleged that no action was taken in the Rs 5,000 crore chit fund scam case “as the Chief Minister did not want any action in that”.

“Over 60 people died and 310 FIRs were registered in the case but no action was taken because in the chit fund scam Chief Minister name was there.”

“In the PDS (public distribution system) scam, Rs 36,000 crore was siphoned off. A diary was seized in that it was written that the money was given to CM Madam and Dr. saheb,” he said, adding, “I want to ask Raman Singhji that who was the CM Madam and Dr Saheb.”

Gandhi said that if the Chief Minister does not want to answer these questions then he (CM) must explain as to why no action was taken against his MP son (Abhishek Singh) when even in a country like Pakistan their Prime Minister was sent to jail after his name appeared in the Panama papers.

“His (Raman Singh) son’s name appeared in Panama Papers but no action is taken against him because Raman Singh and Modi are corrupt,” he thundered.

Raking up the issues of unemployment in the state, Gandhi said despite 15 years of BJP rule in the state, over 40 lakh youth are unemployed. “Tribal land given to industrialists, teachers’ posts vacant, no irrigation facilities in most lands despite 15 years of BJP rule. People of other states given employment here,” he said.

“We will stop it. People of Chhattisgarh will get jobs. Will give land to landless,” the Congress chief said.

The Congress leader alleged that Raman Singh had promised a minimum support price of Rs 2,100 for paddy, but today, farmers get only Rs 1,500. “Congress government will provide MSP of Rs 2,500 for paddy. We will also give bonus to farmers that BJP promised and failed to fulfil,” he said.

He also assured the people of the state that if his party comes to power in the state then it will enforce the Tribal Rights Act, PESA Act and the Land Acquisition Act that protects farmers’ and tribals’ land.

The first phase of the Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh will see polling in 18 seats in eight Maoist-affected districts on Monday. The ruling BJP had lost 12 of the 18 seats in the 2013 Assembly polls. The remaining 72 constituencies will go to the polls in the second phase on November 20.