Patna: Tejashwi Yadav, the political heir of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Yadav, on Sunday backed the candidature of Rahul Gandhi for the post of Prime Minister, but added that the Congress, and he as its president, must first take along all the other parties in the electoral battle against the Bharatiya Janata Party.
“You have all the qualifications to be the next PM, but the onus also lies on you and the Congress Party to take along all the other parties,” Mr Yadav said, sharing the stage with Mr Gandhi and other Congress leaders and chief ministers, including Kamal Nath, Bhupesh Baghel, Ashok Gehlot, and Bihar leaders Jitan Ram Manjhi, Sharad Yadav, among others.
Addressing the Jan Akansha Rally at Patna’s Gandhi Maidan, Mr Yadav added, “All secular parties must come together on one platform to stop the NDA from coming to power in 2019.”
The united Opposition, a patchwork of parties with disparate ideologies, is yet to take off despite several meetings. One of the deal-breakers is the question of projecting a candidate for the top post — an issue that BJP chief Amit Shah had capitalised on with his “six Prime Ministers in six days” barb at the mahagathbandhan.
This was the first time in three decades that the Congress had organised a massive rally at Patna’s iconic Gandhi Maidan. The last time the party had held a rally was in 1989 that was addressed by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Congress leaders are of the opinion that the huge turnout during Jan Akansha Rally would give an edge to the party ahead of seat sharing discussions with the RJD and others. It is understood that all grand alliance partners will now sit together to finalise seat adjustments for 2019 general elections.
Sources claim that the Congress has been demanding a sizeable seat share in the state, but the RJD, which is the largest party in Bihar, has been jittery and is offering 10 or fewer seats to the party.
Addressing the gathering, Mr Gandhi said that the Congress will play on the front foot in the elections. “With leaders like Tejashwi and Lalu Yadav, Congress will play on the front foot and always hit a six during elections”.
Mr Gandhi promised the gathering that his party would waive farm loans and give a big push to the food processing industry if voted to power in the Lok Sabha elections.
Alleging that the Centre’s crop insurance scheme is “aimed at taking away the hard-earned money of farmers to fill up the pockets of big businessmen”, he said that the Congress would initiate a number of steps to deal with farmers’ distress and unemployment.
Attacking the BJP’s Budget announcement to provide pension and direct minimum income of `6,000 to farmers, he said, “The BJP in Parliament applauded and called the decision to provide Rs 17 a day to farmers historical but I feel that it is an insult to them who work hard all day. Prime Minister gave Rs 30,000 crore to Anil Ambani but only Rs 17 to farmers.”
Rpeating his “Chowkidaar hi chor hai” (the watchman is the thief) charge against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Congress president said, “Prime Minister earlier used to say that ache din ayenge, but now people say chowkidar chor hai”.
“The BJP makes promises but fails to deliver. But our party ensures that all promises made to voters are fulfilled. People are still waiting for Rs 15 lakh which was promised to them during previous elections, but what they got in return was demonetisation which in my view is the biggest scam of all time,” the Congress president said.
Mr Gandhi also accused the NDA government at the Centre of committing irregularities in the Rafale deal. He said when the Congress was in power, it had started negotiating the Rafale deal, insisting that aircraft be manufactured at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in Bengaluru. This would have benefitted jobless youths from Karnataka, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha etc but Modi changed all that, the Congress president said.
“He (Modi) undertook tours of various countries and came up with defence deals which would benefit only a private person like Anil Ambani. Manohar Parrikar, who was formerly the defence minister, expressed his disapproval and so did officers of the Indian Air Force, but Modi went on to have his way,” Mr Gandhi charged.
The Congress president also made several announcements for Bihar. He said that Patna University will be granted the status of Central University and farmers of the state will benefit if the Congress comes to power in 2019.
After the rally, in a moving Facebook post in Hindi, Mr Gandhi wrote, “Bihar has been the land of peace but when the time comes, it transforms into a land of revolution. Today, millions lent their voice to the call for change at Gandhi Maidan. We have to strengthen the hope it has roused. We have to build an India of the aspirations of Indians.”