Congress president Rahul Gandhi targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee at his first election rally in the state on Saturday, but spared the Left parties.
Gandhi accused Modi of lying and Banerjee of making empty promises at his first public rally in Bengal since April 2016.
“Did Modi give you employment? Did Mamata di give you jobs? Modi keeps lying and she keeps making false promises,” he said, calling the prime minister a chowkidar (watchman) of the rich.
“Only rich people employ chowkidars,” Gandhi said.
He devoted most of his 20-minute speech at Chanchal in the traditional Congress bastion of Malda district to target Modi but did not spare Banerjee either.
Bengal has experienced one-party rule in the past, Gandhi said, referring to the Communist Party of India (Marxist). “Now it’s the rule of one person who listens to nobody. Earlier, Left parties used to attack you. Now Trinamool is beating you up. Mamata di delivers speeches throughout the day. But what has she done for the farmers, the youth and the jobless?,” Gandhi asked.
Reacting to his speech, West Bengal’s food and supplies minister Jyoti Priya Mallick said in Kolkata that Congress had become a nonentity in Bengal.
“Rahul Gandhi doesn’t know that out of 72 lakh farmers in Bengal, 65 lakh have submitted an application for the financial assistance that Bengal government is providing,” he said.
Both Rahul and Sonia Gandhi, his mother and chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance, sent congratulatory messages to Banerjee in January when she organised the first rally of regional party leaders opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.
In the coming Lok Sabha elections, the Congress will have to fight Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, the BJP and the Left, with which it has failed to reach a seat-sharing deal in Bengal.
Retaining its existing four Lok Sabha seats in Bengal in the face of inroads made by the TMC and BJP will be a tough task, according to political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty, a professor of political science at Rabindra Bharati University.
Gandhi also kick-started the Congress campaign in Bihar from Muslim-dominated Seemanchal’s Purnia district on Saturday, accusing the Narendra Modi government of spreading hatred in society.
He said the BJP and its ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh were dividing the nation.
Gandhi accused the PM of failing to keep any of the promises he made in the 2014 elections, including one to create 20 million jobs a year and tend to the welfare of farmers.
Gandhi spoke for nearly 40 minutes at the Rangbhoomi Maidan where thousands of people from all four districts of Seemanchal were in attendance to listen to him.
Out of nine seats allotted to the Congress party in the Grand Alliance (GA) in Bihar, the party has been given four in the Seemanchal and Kosi regions with a substantial population of Muslims. Seemanchal and Kosi include six Lok Sabha seats; in 2014, the Congress party won two of them — Kishanganj and Supaul.
First Published: Mar 23, 2019 22:56 IST