The central government would soon announce a special financial package for farmers to ease their debt burden, that has forced many of them to commit suicide, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said in Bangalore on Sunday.
Addressing a massive Congress rally in Bangalore in which former deputy chief minister Siddaramaiah was inducted into the Congress, Gandhi said the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was fully aware of the problems faced by the farmers of Karnataka due to floods and drought in several parts of the state.
"Neither the Congress nor the UPA government discriminates states on any basis. I am confident the UPA government will soon come out with a special financial package to bail out the farmers from the problems arising out of recurring floods and droughts."
"I am sure Karnataka farmers will be included in the package," she said in her 20-minute speech in Hindi.
The party's state unit leaders from Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra recently met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to apprise him about the problems faced by farmers and sought funds to provide relief to them.
A large number of farmers, especially in Maharashtra, continue to commit suicide.
"The central government has already announced last week a Rs 2.5-billion flood-cum-drought relief package for Karnataka. A central team has recently visited the state for assessing the damage caused by floods in northern Karnataka and drought in other districts."
"I assure you on behalf of the UPA government that additional funds will be disbursed to the state to take up relief and rehabilitation projects to mitigate the hardships of farmers and affected people," Gandhi said.
Exhorting the state Congress leaders and thousands of party workers to popularise the pro-poor and pro-farmer schemes like the national rural employment guarantee and Bharat Nav Nirman schemes of the UPA government, she said the party would be voted back to power in Karnataka provided its rank and file tackled the people's problems and highlighted the benefits of the central schemes launched for farmers and the poor.
"Even as some states ruled by the Congress are progressing and doing better, it is unfortunate that Karnataka is slipping behind on development due to poor governance by a coalition government formed out of an unholy alliance between the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) and the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party)," the Congress chief lamented.
Lashing out at the JD-S for pulling down the Congress-led coalition government in the state early this year and joining hands with a 'communal' party like the BJP for the sake of power, she said though a section of the JD-S benefited from such an alliance, the people of Karnataka had been the losers, as the present coalition government was ridden with corruption, infighting and inefficient administration.
"Though the Congress lost power in the state after the 2004 elections, we agreed to join hands with JD-S as it also wanted to keep the communal forces out of power. In spite of differences and conflict of interests, we persisted with that party (JD-S) only to protect secular forces."
"But after 20-months of the coalition rule, the JD-S suddenly decided to join hands with the very party (BJP) it wanted to keep out of power all along for the sake of power by breaking the coalition dharma and throwing its secular principles to the winds," Gandhi charged.
Welcoming Siddaramaiah and his followers, who had quit the JD-S to form the All India Progressive Janata Dal (AIPJD), into the Congress, she said the party would be stronger in Karnataka with the support of the former and improve its prospects in the next election.
Besides Siddaramaiah, former chief minister N Dharam Singh and the party's state unit president Mallikarjun Kharge spoke on the occasion at the royal Bangalore Palace grounds under tight security.
An estimated 200,000 people gathered for the Congress rally, causing massive traffic jams and road blockades in the vicinity of the venue.