Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Saturday criticized opposition leaders for their comments on his visits to Dalit homes, saying they are isolated from the poor and downtrodden.
Addressing his first election rally for the Congress in Haryana, Gandhi said: "'Hamara naara kisi tv key ad se nahin, balki gaon ki jhuggi se aaya hai (Our slogan has not come from a TV ad, but from a village hut)."
Gandhi spoke at this village, 150 km from Chandigarh, in support of Sanjay Chhokher, the Congress candidate from Samalkha constituency.
Speaking in Hindi, Gandhi, dressed in a white kurta-payjama, said that his visits to villages and to the homes of the poor were to get a real idea of India.
"The opposition parties don't have a place to go. They attack my visits, raise issues like terrorism, Pakistan and Jinnah, but never talk of poverty or the poor. That is where the strength of India lies. We (Congress) recognise the poor and want to eradicate poverty from this country.
"In 2004, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) gave the slogan ?India Shining'. We talked of 'aam aadmi' (common man). Our slogan did not come from a TV ad but from the poor people and farmers," he said.
Pointing out that it was the Congress which waived off debts worth thousands of crore of farmers, Gandhi said: "The opposition talks of IT and computers. They don't talk of the farmer."
Gandhi said he took Britain's Foreign Minister David Milliband to the house of a Dalit in his Amethi Lok Sabha constituency so that the British leader could understand where the strength of the country lay.
"He ate food with them, interacted with them. I took him to see rural India. Even he said that the strength of India came from its farmers," Gandhi said.
The son of Congress president Sonia Gandhi said that he wanted to promote younger leaders from among common people. "I want these leaders to work in the villages and among the poor people," he added.
Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and other Congress leaders were present at the rally. Haryana goes to polls Oct 13, along with Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh.