Pulling out all stops to woo ex-army men, who constitute a considerable vote bank in Himachal Pradesh, All-India Congress Committee (AICC) vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said the issues related to them were of the “utmost importance” and should be “taken from the heart”.
He was interacting with a gathering of nearly 1,000 ex-servicemen at Dr Rajendra Prasad Medical College Auditorium at Tanda in Kangra district.
Referring to the acceptance of their demand for the ‘One Rank, One Pension’ scheme, the leader said, “You came to me and I promised to do my best and raised the issue with the government.”
Claiming that the Congress believed in “politics of credibility”, Gandhi said army jawans gave their lives while serving the nation, and he would make efforts to ensure that their demands are met.
“We owe a lot to the soldiers and should be grateful to them,” said Gandhi, adding that the Congress’ ideology was the common man’s ideology.
Later, addressing a rally here, he claimed that the implementation of the ‘One Rank, One Pension’ scheme would benefit 23 lakh ex-servicemen.
“I only raised my voice on their behalf. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi did the rest,” he said.
‘HIMACHAL HAS VAST TOURISM POTENTIAL’
Speaking on Himachal-related issues on his first visit to the state after the announcement of the Lok Sabha polls, Gandhi said the state had a “vast tourism potential” unlike any other.
He said the Congress had improved the road infrastructure, as required by the tourism industry. “It is true that the NDA government created a good road infrastructure, but the UPA government constructed roads thrice as long,” he claimed.
Expressing appreciation for the Virbhadra Singh-led state government, he said two industrial areas were being developed at Pandoga and Kandrodi. “The state government has approved 62 industrial units worth ` 1,700 crore in the last 90 days,” Rahul said. He added that a tunnel connecting Leh with Manali would be completed soon.
State Congress chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, while welcoming Rahul, said the Congress had a “history of sacrifices”.
VIRBHADRA ATTACKS BJP
Addressing the gathering, chief minister Virbhadra Singh made a scathing attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party, accusing it of extorting money in the name of Sardar Patel. “They earlier did it in the name of ‘Ram Mandir’ in Ayodhya,” he alleged, adding that the BJP was playing “divisive politics and distorting the history”.
Listing the achievements of his government, Virbhadra accused the media of downplaying his party’s campaign. “Some people are influencing media with money,” the CM alleged.
State Congress in-charge Ambika Soni, co-in-charge Raja Rampal, urban development minister Sudhir Sharma and transport minister GS Bali were also present.