Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday accused Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik of being remote-controlled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as regards the chit fund scam and promised farm loan waiver, if his party was voted to power in the state.
He alleged that the 'corrupt chowkidar' (watchman, a jibe at Modi) was holding Odisha's remote control and dictating terms to Patnaik owing to the corruption prevailing in the state.
Claiming that both Modi and Patnaik had adopted the same strategy of befooling people by making false promises, Gandhi said when the prime minister needed Patnaik's support for the passage of a bill in Parliament, he pressed the remote control's button and the chief minister readily helped him.
While demonetisation was condemned by all, Patnaik had hailed it as a good step, the Congress chief said, adding that on the Goods and Services Tax and other moves of the Centre, the chief minister had showered praises on Modi.
"Your state is being operated by Delhi and Nagpur (where the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is based). What Odisha should get, it is not getting as your chief minister is unable to forcefully present the demands before the Centre because of his weaknesses.
"There is corruption at the Centre, while Odisha too is witnessing a chit fund scam. Your ministers and chief minister are embroiled in these," Gandhi said, addressing an impressive gathering at a Congress rally at Tamando, near Bhubaneswar.
"Because of corruption in the state, Odisha's remote control is in the hands of the corrupt chowkidar, who dictates terms to Patnaik," he said.
Stating that the approach of the Modi government at the Centre and the Patnaik regime in Odisha was the same, Gandhi said their policy was to hand over the people's wealth to 15-20 industrialists to do their marketing through them, while they would run the administration with the help of bureaucrats.
The Congress chief's Odisha visit is being seen as a step to boost the morale of the party cadre in the state, where the Assembly election is due to be held along with the Lok Sabha polls.
The Congress, which has been out of power in Odisha since 2000, is facing a crisis in the state with several senior leaders, including two MLAs, quitting the party a few days ago.
During his first visit to the state after taking over as the Congress president, Gandhi also took part in an interactive session with intellectuals, besides meeting the employees of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) in Bhubaneswar.
Accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party and the RSS of spreading hatred, the Congress Chief said they attempted to pit Hindus against Muslims, north India against south India and trigger an unrest in the north-east.
Despite having made tall promises earlier, both the BJP and the Biju Janata Dal had cheated farmers and the youth by denying them assistance and jobs respectively, he said.
Noting that Odisha had a glorious past, Gandhi said thousands of years ago, emperor Ashok's transformation had taken place on this land.
Though Odisha was endowed with water, land, jungle, minerals and other natural resources, its people continued to be poor, because their resources were snatched away to benefit industrialists, he said.
Gandhi promised to waive all farm loans within 10 days of his party forming the government in the state.
"The farmers of Odisha need not worry as only two-three months are left for the polls and all their problems will end when the Congress comes to power," he said.
Stating that farmers must get remunerative prices for their produce, Gandhi said the minimum support price (MSP) of paddy would be raised to Rs 2,600 per quintal in Odisha if the Congress was voted to power.
"I am not Modi or Patnaik. Whatever I promise, I fulfil," he said.
Gandhi highlighted the steps taken for the benefit of farmers in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, where the Congress formed governments after winning the recent Assembly polls.
"We want to give justice to farmers as it is their right and not a gift. Justice is being given to farmers in the Congress-ruled states," he said.
Accusing Modi and Patnaik of having made false promises to farmers and others, Gandhi said, "I have not come here to lie. I will not promise to deposit Rs 15 lakh in everybody's bank account."
He alleged that loans worth Rs 3.5 lakh crore of 15-20 industrialists were waived, but the Centre failed to provide succour to the distressed farmers.
Gandhi said food processing units would be set up in every district of the state if the Congress came to power and the closed down plants would be revived.
To tackle unemployment, his party would set up a network of industries to stop the migration of people for jobs, the Congress chief said.
The Congress government would fill all vacant posts, he said, adding that 1.3 lakh government jobs, 30,000 posts of teachers, 1,200 posts of university teachers and 3,000 college teachers' posts were lying vacant in Odisha currently.
Criticising the Odisha government for a lack of healthcare facilities in the state, Gandhi recalled the ordeal of a poor tribal, Dana Majhi, who had to carry the body of his wife on his shoulder for over 10 km from a government hospital in Kalahandi district as he failed to get a hearse.
He also referred to the Rafale jets issue and said the previous UPA government had planned to acquire 126 aircraft at Rs 526 crore apiece, but Modi went for 36 jets at Rs 1,600 crore per aircraft and kept the HAL out of the process.