pccRAJNANDGAON, Chhattisgarh: Making a strong emotional pitch over the Maoist ambush on Congress leaders in May, Rahul Gandhi today said that former PCC chief Nand Kumar Patel was killed to stop him from becoming the Chief Minister and to silence the voice of the poor and the tribals here.

Slamming the Raman Singh government over the May 25 dastardly Maoist attack in Bastar which had wiped out the entire senior Congress leadership of the state, Gandhi said this was “not an attack on Congress party but on the people” and asked voters not to forget the event and bring Congress to power in the state.

Hitting out at BJP, Gandhi said that they are a “world champion of corruption” and believe in the empowerment of only a few individuals and not the people, which is the agenda of Congress.

Addressing an election gathering in Chief Minister Raman Singh’s constituency, the Congress Vice President said that it was not Patel but the people of the region who were silenced to death on that fateful day.

“The violence, the attack that happened then was not targeted at Congress party alone. This was an assault on the voice of these people, the women here,” he told the gathering comprising a large number of tribals.

Frequently referring to the slain former Congress state chief Patel, he said, “Nand Kumar Patel was going to become the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh. Nobody could have stopped him. There was no way to stop him. There was only one way and that he was eliminated.

“The voice of the poor and the tribal echoed in his heart and he was killed. It was not he, but you who were killed that day. Don’t forget this. They belong to you and they were snatched from you,” Gandhi said.

Attacking the state government, the Congress leader rued, “Our entire leadership was liquidated, but they (state government) say they have no fault. Our entire leadership was finished but they say it was not their fault….”

On May 25, Naxals attacked a convoy of Congress leaders in Jagdalpur district, killing the party’s senior leader Mahendra Karma and injuring former union minister V C Shukla.

Shukla later died in a hospital.

The bodies of PCC chief Nand Kumar Patel and his son were later found in the forests. A former Congress MLA Udya Mudaliyar was also shot dead by the Maoists who attacked the convoy when they were returning from a “Parivartan” rally.
In his speech interspersed with frequent references to Congress party’s commitment to the empowerment of tribals and acknowledgement of their rights, Gandhi said, “The ‘jal, jangal aur zameen’ (water, forest and land) here belong to you.”

Alleging that 6 lakh acres of land from the poor people of Chhattisgarh were snatched away by the state government and given to industrialists, he asked the tribals whether their consent was sought before the decision.

“I want to say it to the tribals that the state belongs to you. People from BJP are snatching it. Congress party will return all this to you. Since the forest, land and water here belong to you, it is you who should be taking care of them. If you want to give the land to some industrialists, you are free to do it but that will be your decision.”

The Congress leader also talked about the new Land Acquisition Act passed by UPA and told the gathering that the farmers will now get four times more than the market price for their land.

“Congress says that empower the poor and the hungry, and give power in the hands of women and the youths. We will give the power to you. As long as the power is not given to the poor people, their problems will not be solved, corruption will not go. But under the BJP system….they say the entire power should remain in the hands of the Chief Minister. This is the difference between us and them,” he said.

Accusing the BJP leaders of engaging in tall talk and merely making speeches, Gandhi also recalled that the Chief Secretary of Chhattissgarh had sometime back talked about corruption of a particular minister of the state.

“This can happen only in Chhattisgarh. They are the champion of corruption, the world champion,” he said.

Talking about UPA’s right-based initiatives, he said that it was Congress which brought RTI which is the strongest tool to fight corruption. he also said that UPA’s initiatives like right to food and education was benefiting people at large.

Gandhi also referred at length about the initiatives by his party about empowerment of youth and women in Jammu and Kashmir for employment.

“15,000 youths were given jobs in Jammu and Kashmir and in times to come, we will provide jobs to one lakh people. You go to Mumbai and Bangalore to get jobs. Congress is in power there. We will provide the employment and you will not be required to go to Mumbai and Bangalore.

“We talk about work, they only make tall talk. Congress party is a party of the poor, dalits, tribals and workers,” he said.

Appealing to the audience to vote for Congress, he asked Congress workers to reach out to every house to carry the message.–PTI