Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday turned the heat on the Biju Janata Dal (BJD)-led Odisha government, accusing it of not letting the benefits of central schemes trickle down to the people and siding with the mining mafia.
Addressing a rally at Bhatapada village near Cuttack, Gandhi attacked the BJD, a former partner of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), over the Niyamgiri controversy as well.
"We have fought for the tribals of Niyamgiri," Gandhi said, raking up the tribal community's protest against Vedanta Group's proposed alumina refinery plant in the Niyamgiri hills.
At a time when the opposition parties in the state including the Congress are vocal against an alleged large-scale mining scam, Gandhi blamed Naveen Patnaik's government for not maintaining a clean sheet on the issue.
"Iron-ore and manganese worth about Rs 60,000 crore have been looted in the state. The money should have benefited the people of the state, but it has gone to the pockets of a few mining mafia."
Media reports say a leaked Justice MB Shah Commission report has pointed out 94 of the 192 iron-ore mining leases in Odisha do not have environmental clearance and 75, which have a green nod, have mined far beyond the approved level.
Two days before BJP's PM nominee Narendra Modi's expected arrival in Odisha, Gandhi stressed the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre was working for the welfare of the underprivileged people.
"We are fighting for the welfare of the poor, tribal people and women," Gandhi said, asking Congress workers to gear up for the 2014 general elections in order to usher in a change in Odisha, which sends 21 members to the Lok Sabha.
Gandhi added Odisha was a rich state with abundant mineral resources, but its people were still poor.
Slamming the state government, the Congress vice-president said it had failed on all fronts – from tackling unemployment and the Maoist problem to implementing mid-day meal and rural job schemes.
Read: On NaMo’s turf, Rahul Gandhi joins chaiwala debate
"The central government has been sending adequate funds to the state, but they are not reaching the people. The money meant for people is being stolen by the BJD. There have been scams in rural job and mid-day meal schemes," he said, adding at least Rs 5,000 crore of central funds were still lying unused in Odisha.
Gandhi, who arrived at the Biju Patnaik Airport in Bhubaneswar in the morning on a two-day tour and went to the meeting venue by road, said about 3,500 farmers had committed suicide while 10 lakh youngsters were unemployed in the state.
"People in Odisha want to work, but the government has failed to provide them with jobs."