‘BJP protecting real culprits of Morbi bridge collapse’: Rahul Gandhi in Gujarat

Updated on Nov 21, 2022 09:16 PM IST

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who is leading the party’s Kanyakumari-to-Kashmir Bharat Jodo Yatra, held his first election rally in poll bound Gujarat on Monday

Rahul Gandhi addressing a public meeting in Gujarat’s Rajkot on Monday. (PTI)
Rahul Gandhi addressing a public meeting in Gujarat’s Rajkot on Monday. (PTI)

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday said the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Gujarat was trying to protect the “real culprits” behind the Morbi bridge collapse in which 135 persons were killed on October 30.

Gandhi, who is leading the party’s Kanyakumari-to-Kashmir Bharat Jodo Yatra, was speaking at his first election rally in the poll bound Gujarat.

Speaking to a gathering in Rajkot, he said he had told reporters earlier that he did not intend to turn the Morbi tragedy into a political issue. “But the question arises that those who were responsible for tragedy, no action was being taken against them. No FIR against them. They have not been named in the case. They have good relations with the BJP and therefore, the real culprits are being protected. Security guards were arrested but those responsible were not arrested,” he said.

Speaking on unemployment, Gandhi claimed that those who wanted to become doctors and engineers have become gig workers, as they did not get educational opportunities. “Today, young people can’t get employment. It is the highest unemployment in 45 years. This is because all public sector enterprises are being privatised and given to rich industrialists,” he said.

He added that small industries provide employment to people and not big industrialists, and the government has trampled them with imposition of Goods and Services Tax (GST) and demonetisation of currency notes in 2018. “They (the government) promised to end black money with demonetisation but that did not happen. The GST was introduced and it closed smaller industries. This was done to clear the road for rich industrialists by destroying smaller businesses,” he alleged.

“Farmers tell us, three or four industrialists take crores of rupees as loans from banks and the loans of richest people are waived off. We (farmers) take 50,000 to 1,00,000 loan, but why is our loan not waived ever? When industrialists don’t pay, it is called non-performing asset, when farmers do not pay, they are called defaulters. In PM Bima Yojana, farmers pay premium and when the crop is damaged, they don’t get anything. I feel sad listening to all this,” he said.

Addressing a gathering of tribals in Mahuva in Surat district earlier in the day, Gandhi said he felt the pain of farmers, youth and tribals during his Bharat Jodo Yatra and termed tribals as the “first owners” of the country.

He accused the BJP of taking away the rights of tribals and added that the BJP describes them as vanvasis (forest dwellers) whereas the Congress treats them as advisasis (original inhabitants).

“They (BJP) call you ‘vanvasi’. They do not say you are the first owners of India, but that you live in the jungle. Do you see the difference? It means they do not want you to live in cities, they do not want that your children become engineers, doctors, learn to fly planes, speak English,” he said.

He added that the BJP makes tribals stay in forests and then start taking away forests from them. “If it continues like this, then in another 5-10 years, all the jungles will be in the hands of two-three industrialists, and you will have no place to live, and won’t get education, health and jobs,” he said.

Rajasthan chief minister and Congress special observer for the Gujarat polls, Ashok Gehlot, said there is an anti-government wave in the state and there are 32 BJP rebels contesting in the polls. “Only the people of Gujarat can stand against the fear of PM Modi ji and home minister Amit Shah ji,” he said.

He also said that the Congress will do well in these elections because the mood of the public is against the BJP for “mismanaging” COVID and the economy. “Our party is looking at winning 125 seats and we are well on course to do that. Opposition to the BJP government this time wasn’t there the last time. People are agitated. The entire country saw the mismanagement during COVID, especially in the state which was strong even before Independence,” he said at the rally.

He also demanded a “fair” probe into the Morbi bridge collapse and alleged that people were dying because of sale of illicit liquor in Gujarat. “The government’s politics of gimmicks are not going to work, there will be a surprising results,” he added.

On the frequent visits of Pm Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah to the state, the Rajasthan CM claimed that they are doing so as the BJP is “being wiped out of Gujarat”.

Asked about Rahul Gandhi’s absence from the election campaign in Gujarat, the Congress leader said that the former party president is giving priority to the Bharat Jodo Yatra. “Rahul Gandhi is carrying out the yatra in every state, including Gujarat. Every household knows the issues being raised by him. He’s coming here today and will speak his mind,” he said.

On the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), he said they have lost their credibility as they were colluding with the BJP to help the latter. “Someone should ask (Arvind) Kejriwal that why did they suddenly withdraw the campaign from Himachal? Who knows if they withdraw from here too? Are they colluding with the BJP? Their credibility has gone down,” he said.

Elections to the 182-member Gujarat Assembly will be held in two phases on December 1 and 5 and the counting of votes will take place on December 8.

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