Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday claimed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) keeps attacking the Constitution everyday as it does not want to accept that Dalits, tribals and the poor should get rights, and asserted it is only his party that can protect the statue book.
Gandhi, whose Bharat Jodo Yatra entered its 69th day and reached Washim district in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra from Hingoli in Marathwada, targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the implementation of Goods and Service Tax (GST) and the 2016 note-ban exercise and dubbed them as “two weapons to kill” small and medium businessmen, shopkeepers and farmers.
He also hit out at Hindutva ideologue V D Savarkar and alleged he was ”working” for the British and took pension from them.
The Congress MP addressed two gatherings in Washim as part of his yatra, a mass outreach programme that started from Tamil Nadu on September 7.
Addressing a public meeting in the afternoon on the occasion of tribal freedom fighter Birsa Munda’s birth anniversary, which is also celebrated as the Janjatiya Gaurav Divas or Tribal Pride Day, Gandhi alleged the ideals of Munda were being attacked from all sides by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP.
“The BJP attacks the Constitution everyday because they don’t want to accept that Dalits, adivasis and the poor should get rights,” claimed the former Congress president.
He said while the Congress uses the word ‘adivasis’ for tribals, the BJP-RSS combine addresses them as ‘vanvasis’ (forest dwellers).
”They (the BJP-RSS) say you are not adivasis and you did not reside here before everyone. They have changed the name (vanvasi), but it is not a small development. It is serious. They are attacking what Birsa Munda fought for,” he said.
The Congress MP sought to make a distinction between ‘adivasis’ (the original habitants of the land) and ‘vanvasis’ (forest dwellers).
Gandhi said forests are shrinking and will disappear in 20 to 30 years.
“So they (the BJP) are saying that you should not get any rights. When forests disappear, there will be no rights to vanvasis. This is what they mean,” he said.
Gandhi said the Congress firmly believes adivasis are the original owners of the country.
“So, the country (land) was taken from you, so when it was taken from you then you need to get back something in return. So you have to get your rights, healthcare, education, and a share of the country’s wealth. So how are adivasis, minorities, Dalits, backward class protected? It is through the Constitution,” he said.
Attacking the saffron outfit further, the Lok Sabha MP from Kerala alleged it is shutting down public sector companies and privatising education and healthcare, moves that will affect a large section of citizens.
”What will happen if all government schools are shut? (Underprivileged) people will remain illiterate and it is the BJP who will benefit from this. They are shutting all avenues. The doors to employment, education and healthcare are getting shut,” said the Congress leader.
He pointed out that it was the Congress that brought in key legislations like the Forest Rights Act, but the ruling BJP is out to ”snatch” the rights of tribals.
“It is only the Congress who can protect the Constitution, (give) education to tribals, their land and their rights. Only the Congress can give a fight (to its political opponents). The Congress fights, but it should fight more strongly,” Gandhi said.
At the second rally in the evening, the Congress MP attacked Prime Minister Modi over the 2016 note-ban exercise and GST.
“Narendra Modi ji said (the menace of) black money will end (after note-ban). That did not happen, but lakhs of small businesses were shut and crores of people were left unemployed. He wanted to help his two-three friends. Airport, port, road, telecom, infrastructure business have been given to two-three people,” Gandhi said.
He also attacked the Centre over the issue of unemployment.
“Narendra Modi ji used to say he would give employment to 2 crore people, but he rendered crores of people unemployed due to (faulty) GST (implementation) and note-ban. During the coronavirus pandemic they destroyed labourers and made them walk (during nationwide lockdown) and instilled fear in them,” the Member of Parliament alleged.
He asked why loans of farmers can’t be waived if the same can be done for billionaires.
“When a billionaire is unable to pay back the money (loan), the bureaucrats call it NPAs (non-performing assets), but when farmers take loans of Rs 50,000-Rs 1,00,000 and fail to repay them, they call them defaulters and impound their land and house,” Gandhi maintained.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra, which started from Kanniyakumari in Tamil Nadu on September 7, has so far covered 28 districts in six states. The cross-country foot-march entered Deglur in Maharashtra on November 7 and has till now covered Nanded, Hingoli and Washim districts in the state.
The yatra will cover a distance of 382 km across five districts of Maharashtra before entering Madhya Pradesh on November 20.
It will pass through 12 states before culminating in Jammu and Kashmir in January after covering a distance of 3,570 km over nearly 150 days.
Addressing a news conference, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said the yatra has brought to the fore the ”real” Rahul Gandhi and completely changed the Congress MP’s image.
“Before the Bharat Jodo Yatra, the BJP had created his certain kind of image, especially on social media; it never portrayed the right Rahul Gandhi. The Bharat Jodo Yatra is not showing the new Rahul Gandhi, it is showing the real Rahul Gandhi,” said the AICC general secretary in-charge of communications.
“There is a complete change in his image due to the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Today, the Rahul Gandhi in the media or on social media is not the one who was 70 days back,” the former Union minister maintained.
He added the Bharat Jodo Yatra has brought unity in the Congress in the last 70 days as the party has been fighting political challenges.
”One thing is clearly seen in the way our party has united in the last 70 days…the way we have started working on time. There is an Indian Standard Time and there is a Congress Standard Time,” he added.
Jairam was flanked by Congress members Yashomati Thakur, Praniti Shinde and Pradnya Satav. They said a large number of women were participating in the Gandhi-led unity march.