While slamming the Congress-led UPA government for indulging in rampant corruption, BJP president Nitin Gadkari, who is facing a barrage of charges, including dubious sources of investment in his companies, maintained a stoic silence on Saturday over the controversies surrounding him.
Ostensibly in a bid to avoid the media, the BJP president opted for this highly inhospitable region of the November 4 assembly election-bound hill state to address public meetings on Saturday. He kept mum when asked to clear the haze surrounding him and his fate as the saffron party chief.
After Gadkari finished his 20-minute address here, which revolved around digs at Sonia Gandhi and corruption in the union government, he ducked all the queries posed by mediapersons by turning his face the other way and dashed towards his helicopter parked adjacent to the venue.
"The only agenda of the Congress-led UPA government of Sonia Gandhi in Delhi is to indulge in loot with both the hands," he told the hill folks of Chopal assembly segment, adjoining Uttarakhand, about 120 km from Shimla.
Earlier in the day, he addressed another election meeting in Reckong Peo in Kinnaur district, an eight-hour drive from the state capital.
"Keep in mind how much corruption the Congress has spread," he told the gathering. "Behind this massive price rise you are suffering from is the corruption of the Congress."
From the 2G scam to the Commonwealth Games scandal and the latest Coalgate, the BJP president was at pains to remind people of the scams which hit the union government, saying, "The Congress indulged in corruption wherever it could, from inside the earth, over the earth and even in the air."
Contrary to the ground realities, the BJP chief tried to sell the development agenda of the BJP in Himachal and dwelt at length over the development ushered in by the Prem Kumar Dhumal government. He credited the BJP government in the state with creating a vast network of roads in the apple belt. But the fact of the matter is that the condition of roads is such that it takes a minimum of seven hours to reach Nerwa from Shimla in a cab. Travelling in this region is a bone-rattling affair.
From Jawaharlal Nehru to now Rahul Gandhi, the BJP chief pointedly targeted the Nehru-Gandhi clan for "coining the slogan of Garibi hatao for electoral gains". "But we continue to be a nation rich in resources and lead the world in human resources despite having so many poor people," he quipped.
Repeatedly blaming the Congress for not taking steps to overcome poverty, hunger and unemployment, Gadkari told the gathering that his party would "wipe out" all the problems afflicting the nation, including poverty, hunger and unemployment. He said: "The foodgrains are decaying, but the UPA is not ready to distribute them among the poor."
Charging the Congress with spreading the poison that the BJP was anti-Muslim, Gadkari said that had this been the case, the NDA government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee would not have opted for Dr APJ Abdul Kalam as President.
The BJP chief was accompanied by national BJP general secretary Jagat Prakash Nadda, who also sought support for BJP candidate Seema Mehta, a first-timer.
Chopal is a traditional Congress bastion. The BJP had won this seat in 1977 (under the banner of Jan Sangh) and 1990. It is eyeing the 31,000 women voters of this constituency, which has a 65,000-strong electorate.