Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Sunday hit back at Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for calling the national party "corrupt", saying the ruling Biju Janata Dal is responsible for a series of scams in the state.
"The funds given to Odisha for welfare schemes do not reach their beneficiaries. Most of the money is being misappropriated mid way," Gandhi said during a Congress rally at Bhatapada village near Salipur town in Cuttack district.
"There has been massive loot of iron ore and manganese from the state. A handful of people have benefited from the mining loot while people are suffering here," he said.
Patnaik had termed the Congress as "corrupt" and the BJP as "communal" during a programme held to celebrate the foundation day of his party on December 26 last year.
"Your money earned from coal, iron ore, manganese and different minerals are going to others' pockets, while the state government is unable to run schools and hospitals. Nearly
3,500 farmers have committed suicide in Odisha and above 10 lakh youths could not be given employment," he said.
Gandhi urged the people to "oust the BJD government to ensure a speedy development of the state".
Referring to the Rangarajan Committee’s report, Rahul Gandhi said Odisha tops the list of undeveloped states in the country though it has rich reserves of minerals and a long coastline.
"While Odisha is amir (rich), its people are garib (poor)," he said, adding Centre's funds to the state were being diverted and misappropriated.
Attacking the BJD over frequent complaints of "negligence by the Centre", he claimed the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre had provided maximum funds for the state's development.
"No previous government had ever given such a huge amount of money for the state. I am told Rs 5,000 crore is still lying unspent here," he said.
Alleging that the BJD government had failed to implement welfare schemes, he said though the Centre allots money to the state for the mid-day meal scheme, "the funds go to fill others' bellies."
"This state government has even diverted the rice meant for BPL families," he alleged, adding that the benefits do not reach the people because of corruption and misutilisation of funds.
Referring to the rise of left-wing extremism in Odisha, he said 22 of the state's 30 districts are hit by it and held lack of development responsible for the situation.
He also referred to the ponzi scheme scam in the state -- in which 20 lakh investors were duped by different chit fund companies -- and alleged that the state government did not take any action against them.
Gandhi asked the state Congress leadership and party workers to fight for the rights of tribals, Dalits and other weaker sections of people and said he had himself fought for the rights of Dangaria Kandhas and “saved” Niyamgiri Hills in Kalahandi-Rayagada district.
The people will get their due benefits if they vote for the Congress and oust the BJD, he added.
Earlier in the day, Gandhi held his first road show in the state, travelling 50 km from Bhubaneswar on the first day of his two-day Odisha visit.