"When land is taken from the rich it is bought, but when it comes to the poor and adivasis (indigenous people), their land is grabbed. Our fight is for the poor," said Gandhi, dressed in a white kurta-pyjama and sporting a stubble.
"When the Congress party comes to power, we will ensure that the tribal bill is implemented so that your land is not snatched away from you," he said.
Gandhi was addressing tribals of Bastar district in the first rally after the May 25 Maoist ambush and killings of Congress leaders Vidya Charan Shukla and Nandkumar Patel besides tribal leader Mahendra Karma who founded the "Salwa Judum" to combat Maoists.
Dominated by tribals, the Bastar region is crucial for the Congress as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 11 of the 12 assembly seats in the region in the 2008 elections.
The Gandhi scion also attacked the BJP ruling the state and accused it of doing little to protect the opposition leaders as well as the common people.
"This government failed to protect leaders of such important stature, how will they protect the common man?" he said, alluding to the killing of Vidya Charan Shukla, Nand Kumar Patel and Mahendra Karma in the Maoist ambush.
He criticised the state government for its poor health and education policies.
"Thousands are dying here due to gastroenteritis and loose motions and there are no doctors in hospitals," he said.
"A few years back, I had visited a village here and was informed that of the 2,000 residents, only one passed Class 12. What type of government is this? What future does that village have?" asked Gandhi.
Taking on Chief Minister Raman Singh's claim of improving infrastructure, Gandhi said though it is necessary for a city to have good roads, transportation etc., it is more important to empower the poor.
"They talk only about infrastructure but we want to empower the poor and the adivasis. Feeding them and looking after them is equally important," he said.
Gandhi also accused the state BJP of taking all the credit for welfare schemes funded by the United Progressive Alliance-led central government.
"We give them the money so that you can get cheap food, but this government takes all the credit. When we brought the food security bill, they protested for three years because they realised that they would no longer be able to do that," he said.
He also asked tribal youth to come forward and join politics.
Around 10,000 people, mostly tribals, attended the rally.
The Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, is a key piece of forest legislation passed Dec 18, 2006.
Also called the tribal bill, it concerns the rights of forest dwelling communities to land and other resources denied to them for decades due to colonial forest laws.
--IANS (Posted on 26-09-2013)