Mafia running Odisha, looting state's wealth: Rahul Gandhi
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi Monday said a mafia was running the state government and looting the mineral wealth of Odisha.
"The state government is run by the mine mafia. Your wealth is being looted and the benefits are not reaching you," Gandhi said at a rally near Semiliguda in Koraput district.
Striking an emotional chord, the Congress leader said be it his father Rajiv Gandhi or he himself, his family has a special bond with the tribals of the state.
Addressing another rally later at a ground named after Indira Gandhi, his late grandmother, at Umarkot in Nabrangpur district, Rahul Gandhi said the Congress has always protected the interests of all sections of people, be they farmers, poor or tribals.
He said it was the Congress which fought for the interests of the tribals in Niyamgiri and for farmers in Bhatta Parsaul.
"In Niyamgiri, the Congress stood with you. We together saved the hills," he said.
"Odisha is a rich state but its people are poor. The main reason is your government is giving up your wealth to a handful of people. They don't use it for building schools for you, or providing education, health and jobs."
Criticising the Naveen Patnaik government for diverting money sent by the central government for welfare of tribals, he said: "We send special funds for the tribals but the state government diverts it."
Elaborating on the measures taken by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government over the last decade, Gandhi told the gathering that the Congress is for the poor and weaker sections and that the party believes in taking everybody along.
He said crores of people are benefiting from the employment guarantee scheme. "This scheme lifted 15 crore poor people from the below poverty line," he said.
He also said the Congress gave the right to food to ensure food security to the poor and the right to information to bring transparency in governance. Gandhi said his party has also taken measures for empowerment of women.
"We gave 50 percent reservation to you in panchayats. Our efforts will be to pass the women reservation bill so that 33 percent reservation is available for women in the assemblies and parliament."
The Congress leader also criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, saying people in the NDA say they will bring progress, but they never utter a word on farmers, poor or tribals.
"When we waived farmer loans worth Rs.70,000 crore, they said it was a waste of money. This is not waste of money," he said.
"Farmers toil hard to take India forward. When we help you, we help India move ahead. They also opposed us on the new land acquisition bill. Today, you get three times more than the market rate for your land," he said.
A leader of the state's ruling Biju Janata Dal refuted the allegations made by Gandhi against Odisha government.
"It is the Congress which is running the mining mafia," BJD vice president Kalpataru Das said.
Elections to the state's 147-member assembly and for 21 Lok Sabha seats would be held simultaneously in two phases April 10 and 17.
(Posted on 31-03-2014)