Rahul Gandhi attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Chhattisgarh for its failure to act against Maoists responsible for killing many Congress leaders in May.
Addressing a rally of tribals in Naxal-hit Bastar region, the first after the May 25 Maoist bloodbath that had virtually wiped out the Congress leadership in the state, he said the party's leaders were massacred to "silence the voice" of common people.
"Thirty-two people were killed (in the Maoist attack), where was the government? The tallest opposition leader was killed, where was the government? When the leaders of tribals are not safe, what about masses," he asked.
"I rushed to Chhattisgarh after I got to know about the tragedy... Why I did so despite many people advising against me it... Because I knew your voice was being suppressed. I could not have allowed it," he told the Adivasi Adhikar Mahasammelan (grand meeting for tribal rights) in Jagdalpur.
Putting the state government in the dock over the incident, Rahul asked what was it doing when so many leaders were being killed.
Maoists had ambushed a convoy of Congress leaders in Bastar, killing 27 people including state Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel, his son Dinesh, senior Congress leader Mahendra Karma, V C Shukla and ex-MLA Uday Mudaliyar.
The Congress, Rahul said, believes in empowering people and running the country "along with you" but the opposition thinks "one, two or three persons" can rule the country. He said the Congress is hopeful of coming back to power in the state, which is under the BJP rule for past 10 years. He has been making efforts to bring some unity in the faction-ridden state unit for the purpose.
Rahul also exhorted tribal youths to join politics. "Don't forget Rahul Gandhi is behind you," he said.
The Congress vice president listed the enactment of the Food Security Bill, Land Acquisition Bill, Right to Education and Right to Information as evidence of his party's commitment to empower the poor, the middle classes and the masses. "There are two thoughts. One is of the Congress, it is largely about rights. We intend that common people, tribal and middle classes get rights, empowerment. We think we all should be running the government together. The opposition thinks the country can be run by two, three persons.
"They (BJP) talk of roads. We have built roads many times more than what they did. But we also think it is necessary to provide food to those who walk on them and education to their children," he said.
Tight security measures were put in place for the rally. The rally also saw two warring factions of the party coming together at the instance of the high command to put up a united front ahead of elections.
Former chief minister Ajit Jogi, who has been critical of the working of the newly-appointed Pradesh Congress Committee chief Charan Das Mahant, was on the stage besides party's treasurer Moti Lal Vora, All India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge for the state B K Hari Prasad and senior leader Mohsina Kidwai. "There have been efforts (for unity) and I think we all will be working together after the rally today," Mahant said. The tribal-dominated region is crucial to the Congress' fortune in the elections.
Bastar, which was a Congress bastion for long, has for the last few years turned into a BJP stronghold. The saffron party had won 11 of the 12 assembly seats in 2008 elections.