In a hard-hitting attack on Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi on his home turf, Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday accused his government of "stealing" farmers' land and charged the BJP with appropriating credit for schemes launched by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance.
Without directly naming the Gujarat chief minister, Gandhi also alluded that Modi works like Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler and attacked him for retaining "corrupt" ministers in his state cabinet while talking tall of fighting corruption.
"What kind of chowkidari (guarding) is happening in Gujarat? Lakhs of acres of land are being taken away from farmers and being given to industrialists. When farmers say something, their voice is ignored.”
"Is stealing the land of farmers chowkidari?This is called theft and not chowkidari," Gandhi said addressing a rally in Balasinor, the first destination of his tour programme.
Modi has been saying in his rallies that he will work like a chowkidar of the nation's treasury if the BJP government came to power.
Seeking to draw a parallel between BJP's India Shining Campaign in 2004 Lok Sabha polls and its focus on Gujarat's development under Modi, Gandhi said it is being publicised in the whole country that Gujarat shines but its sheen is limited to a few industrialists and the poor have not benefited from it.
The BJP had lost the 2004 polls and the India Shining campaign of the National Democratic Alliance not going down well with the electorate was attributed as one of reasons.
Accusing the BJP of taking credit for programmes initiated by the Congress, Gandhi said in a sarcastic tone that the leaders of the opposition party would claim after a decade that they had also brought Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Act and Right to Food, the flagship programmes of the Congress-led UPA.
"There are two kinds of leaders. The first type belongs to those who go among people, have some ideology and believe in the knowledge of people. He goes to them, asks them and learns from them. The thinking of this kind of leader is that it is the people who are repository of knowledge. Such a leader wants to understand people and has no pride.
"Then there is another kind of leader, whose best example is perhaps Hitler. Hitler thought there was no need to go to people. He believed entire knowledge of the world is only in his mind. That kind of leader only talks that he did this and that. That leader does not require to go to people," Gandhi said.
The Congress vice president had in the past also compared Modi to Hitler.
Maintaining that a true leader is one who goes to people, Gandhi said the job of a leader is not to give speeches but to listen to people.
"That is what my effort has been. I want to listen to you, understand you. This is what the UPA government did in last ten years. We brought the Land Acquisition Bill when you said that your voice is not heard in land acquisition," he said, adding, "what people of India want is adhikar (rights) and not chowkidar".
The Congress vice president also hit out at the BJP for attacking the UPA over corruption. "The leaders from the BJP talk about corruption. Three ministers in Gujarat have gone to jail in corruption cases but they were not removed from the state cabinet. There was no Lokayukta in Gujarat till the Supreme Court intervened.
Referring to NDA's India shining campaign in the past and the party's focus on development in Gujarat, Gandhi said, "Thousands of acres of land were taken but there is no employment. The below poverty line figure is pegged at Rs 11 in Gujarat but it is being publicised in the other regions of the country that Gujarat is shining. Gujarat is indeed shining but not for the poor, the women here.
"It is shining only for 10-15 industrialists. They are shining like gold but the houses of the poor in Gujarat are not shining," he charged.
Interacting with the audience, the Congress VP asked them whether they got employment after thousands of acres of land were taken from them.
He also referred to the Nano car project of TATA, which shifted its base from West Bengal to Gujarat and asked them whether they are seeing the Nano on roads.
Gandhi said when the Congress (Rajiv Gandhi) had talked about bringing computers in the country, two big leaders (Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani) of the BJP had said in Parliament that this would be damaging, take away jobs and will spoil the future of youths.
"Ten years later, the same leaders -- the number one and two in that party with Pramod Mahajan (then telecom minister) by their side said they brought the computer revolution in the country. The revolution by Amul was also led by us. The BJP leaders were saying they did it," he said.
"After ten years from now, leaders from the BJP will come and say that they had brought MNREGA and Right to Food. The BJP has no ideology, no revolutionary thinking. They have only anger, which they will give you and pit you against one another," Gandhi said.
He said the UPA has worked for freight corridor projects, which are a big plan to boost infrastructure and employment. "The BJP leaders will in future claim, these were also brought by them."
Claiming that five crore people got jobs from MNREGA and 80 crore will benefit from Right to Food, he said when he raised the issue of food security in Parliament, the BJP leaders said money was being wasted.
Reaching out to farmers, Gandhi said, "When your land is 0taken away and something is snatched from you, then there is no waste. But it is wastage for them when you are given something, when the poor is given something."
Reiterating his resolve for giving opportunities to 70 crore people falling in a category between the BPL and middle class, he said if the country has to be changed the status of the poor has to be changed. "We have the poor to the middle class level. We have lifted 15 crore people above the poverty line. Now a new class has emerged with the efforts of the UPA government. These 70 crore people, who are above BPL line and below the middle class category have to be brought above into the middle class group. Our target is to convert them into middle class," he said.
Image: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi