Union human resource development (HRD) minister Smriti Irani on Tuesday tried to turn the tables on Rahul Gandhi about a controversial food park in his home turf, challenging him to an open debate on the issue in Amethi.
She also accused the Congress vice-president of promoting a particular business house for the project.
The minister visited Gandhi's parliamentary constituency amid a raging row over the food park that the Narendra Modi government has scrapped as the project failed to take off in the five years since it was sanctioned.
“When Rahul Gandhi spoke for the first time in Amethi, he was talking for a business house. He did not speak for the farmers of Amethi. If you look at the documents of district officials, you will understand that from 2010 to 2014, land was not provided by the Congress (for the park). Gas was not given,” she said during her interaction with farmers affected by unseasonal rain and hailstorms.
Her remarks were in line with food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur’s argument in the Lok Sabha that the food park’s promoter company had expressed its inability to pursue the project in the absence of natural gas, whose allocation was denied by the previous UPA government in December 2012.
As Irani spoke in the Gandhi family pocket borough, where she unsuccessfully contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the Congress vice-president took a swipe at her in Parliament as well as accused Prime Minister Modi of practicing “the politics of revenge” by cancelling the project.
“I hope Smriti Irani gets the food park back for Amethi,” Gandhi said.
BJP leaders said Irani’s visit was largely to dispel doubts created by the Congress about the NDA government’s policies, but it raised eyebrows as it came ahead of Gandhi’s slated Amethi tour on May 18.
“I want to know why your MP, whose 'missing' posters were seen here not so long ago, remembers Amethi only after I do,” Irani said.“The MP of Amethi has been missing from here. At least following in my footsteps, the people of Amethi will get to see him. I am glad.”
The minister said she would visit Amethi again on May 26 when the Modi government completes a year in office. “Let him (Gandhi) share the stage with me and debate on the issue. The food park was sanctioned in 2010, why was it delayed for four years?” she asked.