Rahul Gandhi hits campaign trail in TN, targets PM Modi

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COIMBATORE, Jan 23 (PTI): Launching his party’s campaign for the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday accused the AIADMK government of ‘compromising’ with the Centre and alleged Prime Minister Narendra Modi used agencies like the CBI to get what he wanted.

Addressing people at multiple locations from his campaign van, Gandhi targeted the Prime Minister in his first of the three-day campaign of western Tamil Nadu.

“I will work with the people of Tamil Nadu to help you get a government that you deserve,” he said and refrained from mentioning ally DMK, the ruling AIADMK’s archrival and a key contender for power in Tamil Nadu.

In April or early May assembly elections are likely in Tamil Nadu and AIADMK, a BJP partner, is in power since 2011.

“I want to help bring a government in Tamil Nadu that truly respects poor people, farmers, labourers and small and medium business owners,” Gandhi said.

The Congress party’s ties with the DMK appeared strained after the Dravidian party days ago said it had plans to contest all the 30 seats in neighbouring Puducherry as part of efforts to strengthen the party.

Also, DMK office-bearers could not be seen in his campaign here. Cadres of alliance parties taking part in the campaign of top leaders of the combine had so far been a practice in the state.

Hitting out at the AIADMK government, Gandhi said, “You have a government today in Tamil Nadu that is compromised. Narendra Modi uses the CBI and Enforcement Directorate to get what he wants.”

“Narendra Modi feels that he can buy anybody. He thinks he can frighten anybody. He does not understand that just because he is for sale does not mean Tamil Nadu is for sale,” Gandhi said.

The Prime Minister believed that as he ‘controls’ the Tamil Nadu government, he could extend his dominance over the people of the state as well, the Congress MP said, adding the public, were, however, going to make the PM known that he cannot control them.

“Only the Tamil people will determine the future of Tamil Nadu. Nagpur (RSS) can never determine the future of Tamil Nadu.” Modi does not understand the spirit of self-respecting Tamil people who would respond only to love and affection, he said.

During his campaign, Gandhi had tea in a roadside shop and interacted with people there and also took part in a brief reception accorded to him by ‘Baduga’ people of the Nilgiris district.

The Congress leader alleged the Prime Minister partnered with big businessmen and was ‘selling’ everything that belonged to the people.

“What does Modi do? Modi partners with three or four big businessmen in this country. They provide him media and he provides them money…Narendra Modi is one by one selling everything that belongs to the people of India and Tamil Nadu,” he alleged.

Gandhi said what belonged to the farmers was now being taken away by the three new farm laws and alleged ryots “are going to be made servants” of biggest industries. That was why his party backed farmers and fought the government, he said.

Citing his interaction with representatives of small and medium industries, he said they explained the ‘damage’ caused by demonetisation and GST implementation.

He accused the Prime Minister of giving away to a few industrialists what rightfully belonged to the farmers and small industries. Attacking the BJP, he said his party was involved in a fight against a ‘particular’ ideology that believed that “only one culture, one language and one idea should rule India.”

“Modi ji believes that the entire India should worship only one person called Narendra Modi,” Gandhi claimed. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has “no respect” for the culture, language and people of Tamil Nadu, he alleged.

Modi “thinks that the Tamil people, Tamil language and Tamil culture should be subservient to his ideas, his culture,” Gandhi claimed.

In Prime Minister’s perception of India, people of Tamil Nadu should be ‘second’ class citizens, he alleged, adding whereas his party valued pluralism providing a space for all languages and cultures including Tamil. His visit to the state was to make people realise that their culture, language and history was under attack.

“My relationship with the people of Tamil Nadu is not a political relationship, it is a family relationship,” he said and asserted he had no ‘selfish’ interest in visiting the state. He had a ‘blood’ relationship with the state and he visited as a family member.

The Tamil Nadu Congress Committee released a campaign Tamil video song which asked people to join hands with Rahul. The “Rahuloda onna kai korpom, vanga oru kai parpom” tagline roughly meant a determined fight by joining forces with Gandhi. The use of Tamil word ‘kai’ meant joining hands with Rahul and also seen as a reference to the party’s hand symbol.

The Congress leader, who is visiting Tamil Nadu for the second time within 10 days, was accorded a rousing reception by Congress workers at the airport on his arrival from Delhi. He is set to cover districts including Coimbatore, and Erode, in western parts of the state, popularly known as the ‘Kongu’ (Tamil name) region. He visited Madurai on January 14 to witness bull taming sport ‘Jallikattu.’

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