In the first public rally in Bastar after the Maoist attack on Congress motorcade, party vice president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday expressed concern about the safety and security of common people in Chhattisgarh under the BJP's rule.
"When the Congress leaders are not safe, how can the common people feel secure here?" the Congress leader asked.
While addressing the Adivasi Adhikar Mahasammelan organised by the state Congress at Lal Bagh ground in Bastar district, he said the killing of Congress leaders Nand Kumar Patel, Mahendra Karma and VC Shukla was an attempt to silence the voice of common man.
In an audacious ambush at Darbha valley on May 25, Maoists killed 27 persons including 20 Congress party members.
"Patel told me that the Congress will never lose the (upcoming) election and his thoughts reflected the feelings of the people of Chhattisgarh," Gandhi said.
He added that after the incident, he realised that Patel was killed to silence the emerging voice of Chhattisgarh. "So, I rushed to Chhattisgarh even at 1am even though I was told not to go," Gandhi said as the crowd applauded.
Earlier this month, BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi addressed a huge gathering from the Red Fort's replica at Ambikapur in north Chhattisgarh. Comparisons were drawn by many between Modi's 'Lal Qila' speech and Gandhi's Lal Bagh address.
Without naming anyone, Gandhi said there are some who believe the country can be run only by two or three people.
"But we think the country is ruled by the common man. And the Congress only thinks about the rights of the people," he said while spelling out the schemes that the UPA government has introduced in its nine-year rule.
He mentioned right to education, right to information, NRHM, food bill, MGNREGA, Pesa, Fra and tribal-oriented Land Acquisition Act.
"When land is taken from the rich it is bought, but when it comes to the poor and adivasis (tribals) their land is grabbed. Our fight is for the poor," he said.
Gandhi exhorted the youth to come forward to participate in politics and take the nation ahead. Attacking the BJP government in the state, he said they failed to execute development in Chhattisgarh commensurate with 'huge' funds released by the Centre.
After Gandhi finished his speech, the crowd waited to catch a glimpse of him as he walked along the security barricades towards his bullet-proof vehicle. Around 1500 personnel were deployed in and around the venue for security.
The ruling BJP, which had won 11 out of 12 seats in the Bastar tribal belt in 2008, closely monitored Gandhi's visit and his rally.