Rahul Gandhi arrived in Congress bastion, Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh on a two-day visit, his first after taking over as party chief, and attacked the Modi government for "lying" and not honouring promises made to people.
Bharatiya Janata Party supporters staged protests against the Congress leader, who began his visit to Rae Bareli and Amethi, the Lok Sabha constituencies represented by his mother and himself, after offering prayers at a Hanuman temple.
After offering prayers at the Churva Hanuman Mandir on Lucknow-Rae Bareli road, he proceeded towards Amethi, and addressed a public meeting on way at Salon, where some Congress supporters clashed with protesters, who the party claimed, were sponsored by the BJP.
"People belonging to the BJP are continuously telling lies, one after the other. Whether it is a lie about Rs 15 lakh in the bank accounts of every citizen or giving remunerative prices to farmers for their produce or construction of roads," he told the meeting.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi had talked of giving employment to two crore youth. Is there even a single young person here who has got employment? We are in competition with China. I would like to tell you, the government of China gives employment to 50,000 youngsters every 24 hours...I had raised this point in the Lok Sabha," Gandhi, fresh from his party's remarkable show in the Gujarat poll, said.
He asked Congress workers to "expose the lies" being spread by the BJP.
Gandhi, who flagged demonetisation and Goods and Services Tax during his aggressive Gujarat campaign, once again attacked the government on these. He also accused the government of working only for a handful of industrialists.
He claimed there were 30 lakh unemployed youth in Gujarat demanding employment, but the prime minister was silent.
"I had said that wherever we go, we find made in China mark on mobile phones, shirts, shoes and other accessories. You had promised Make in India... This is a matter of shame...the work done by the Chinese government in two days, the same work takes a year for Narendra Modi government to do ...This is the truth," he said.
The Congress president raked up the issue of cancellation of the food park project in Amethi, and said it would be built once the Congress returned to power.
"I want to say one thing. Come what may, food park will be set up here (in Amethi), and I will prove this... Listen to me, as soon as our government is formed, whether it is the sugarcane farmer, potato farmer or a farmer who grows other crops, your produce will be sold here, and you will get a handsome price," he said.
As the Congress president's convoy was leaving for the next the venue, Parshderpur, some alleged BJP workers raised slogans against him. There were heated exchanges between Congress workers and protesters.
A Congress MLC from Rae Bareli -- Deepak Singh -- and Additional SP Shekhar Singh were seen talking to each other angrily. The protesters were later chased away from the scene.
In Amethi also, Rahul Gandhi had to face angry protesters at Rajiv Gandhi Chowk because of which he could not garland the statue of his father.
Supporters of the BJP and the Congress fought a pitched battle, giving the local police and Provincial Armed Constabulary personnel a trying time containing them. There were no immediate reports of injury to anyone.
A local BJP leader and trader Rajesh 'Masala' said it was the protesters' way to "welcome" their "missing" MP.
The Congress leader's visit to the Hanuman temple was much talked about.
Gandhi spent some 10 minutes at the temple. After offering prayers, the 47-year-old leader, attired in white kurta-pyjama, came out sporting a bright vermilion 'tilak' on his forehead.
His frequent visits to Hindu shrines are being seen as an attempt to blunt the BJP's charge of Muslim appeasement against the Congress. The BJP had also accused Gandhi, a self-proclaimed 'Shiv Bhakt', of going temple-hopping in Gujarat for votes, and his visit to Hanuman temple on Monday could effectively quell such perception.
Rahul had visited around 20 temples across Gujarat during the assembly poll campaign and it seemed to have worked well for the party.
"We expect that his temple visits in Uttar Pradesh too will pay dividends in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in 2019 and the assembly polls in 2022," Uttar Pradesh Congress spokesperson Ashok Singh said.
As Gandhi embarked on his first visit to the Congress strongholds of Rae Bareli and Amethi after assuming the reins of the party, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath advised him to shun "negative politics" and focus on development.
"The Congress president should give up doing negative politics," Adityanath told reporters in Gorakhpur.
Asked as to how he viewed his first visit to the state after donning the mantle of the Congress president, the chief minister said, "My advise to Rahul is that he should focus more on politics of development."
Adityanath said had the Congress laid more emphasis on development, Amethi would not have languished.
"See the plight of his Lok Sabha constituency -- Amethi -- nursed by four generations of Nehru-Gandhi family," Adityanath told porters on the sidelines of an event at Gorakhnath temple, of which he is the head priest.