NEW DELHI :
After a gap of nearly 5 months, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi hit the campaign trail on Sunday with a rally in Maharashtra's Latur where he took on the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government primarily over the issues of unemployment and rural distress. Taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi led government, Gandhi also said that issues like Kashmir, abrogation of Article 370 and moon missions are being used in political campaign to distract attention from bigger problems.
Gandhi stepped down as the party president soon after Congress' second worst defeat in the Lok Sabha elections in May this year. Following his resignation, Sonia Gandhi returned to the top post in the party. Sunday marks the first electoral campaign by Congress' top brass as Rahul Gandhi is scheduled to address two more rallies later in the day in Maharashtra.
“If you ask anyone in the country what are the two main problems right now - they will say issues related to farmers and unemployment. The aim of demonetisation and roll out of Goods and Services Tax (GST) was to take out money from the pockets of poor people. You will not find a single small trader who has not been affected by these two things," Rahul Gandhi said at a rally in Latur's Ausa.
Referring to the meeting between Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in their second informal summit in Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu over the weekend, Rahul Gandhi said neither the PM nor the media raised the issue of Doklam at that time. Gandhi also took swipe at the union government saying that while space and moon missions were big accomplishments, urgent solutions need to be found for the issue of unemployment.
“Congress founded ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation). Rockets are not sent in two days, but of course Narendra Modi is taking credit for it. Sending a rocket to moon will not feed youth of the country," Rahul Gandhi said. “During elections, they talk about (abrogating) Article 370, Kashmir and moon (missions) but they will not open their mouth on the real issues. It is an idea which they think will give them political benefits by diverting attention," he added.
Congress, which is in a pre poll alliance with Sharad Pawar led Nationlist Congress Party (NCP), has been out of power for the last five years in the state. Sonia Gandhi is yet to hold a public rally in the run up to the polls either in Maharashtra or Haryana. Both states go to polls on 21 October.
“The youth of the country do not know what is going to happen to them tomorrow. Farmers worry every night how they are going to pay off their debt," Rahul Gandhi added in his rally on Sunday at Latur.