Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.(Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.(Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)

'People of Tamil Nadu will determine their future, not Nagpur': Rahul Gandhi

  • Gandhi is on a tour of the western belt where he will next visit Erode, Tiruppur, Karur and Dindigul districts to meet farmers, weavers and youngsters.
By Divya Chandrababu, Chennai
UPDATED ON JAN 23, 2021 10:24 PM IST

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said that the people of Tamil Nadu will determine its future and not Nagpur - headquarters of BJP’s ideological parents the RSS. Gandhi promised his party will work with the southern state's people to give them a new government that they deserved.

Gandhi kicked off the Congress’ election campaign from Coimbatore district for the ensuing assembly elections by attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP-led central government and the RSS for its ideology and other aspects. “You have a government in Tamil Nadu that is compromised,” Gandhi said in Coimbatore his first stop during his three-day visit to the state.

“Modi uses the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate to get what he wants. He thinks just because he controls the government of Tamil Nadu, he can control its people. Nagpur cannot determine the future of Tamil Nadu. People are going to show Modi that only they can determine its future. The prime minister and RSS treat communities with disrespect.”

The former Congress chief picked on issues of the centre-state divide where Tamil Nadu has viewed the BJP as a Hindi party trying to impose the language. “Currently, they are trying to bring the idea of one language, one culture which we are fighting,” said Gandhi from an open campaign van. “Modi has no respect for the culture, language and people of Tamil Nadu. He thinks Tamil people, language and culture should be subservient to his idea. We feel all languages - Tamil, Hindi, Bengali, English - have a space in the country."

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Gandhi’s effort was to emotionally connect with the state by invoking his love for the language and culture and Tamil Nadu’s relationship with former prime ministers and his late grandmother Indira Gandhi and father Rajiv Gandhi. "My relationship with Tamil Nadu is not political but a family relationship. I’m at your service to protect the interest of Tamil people.”

Besides holding two roadshows, Gandhi interacted with MSME representatives during the day and with industrial labourers in the evening. During the interactions, he criticised PM Modi for the implementation of GST and demonetisation and promised that the UPA would simplify the GST by restructuring it to one tax and minimum tax.

Gandhi spoke of NYAY with an assurance of minimum income of 72,000 per year. He said that the country was moving in a dictatorial direction given the protests in the country, particularly on farm legislation. “The current dispensation in Delhi is not interested in negotiation, listening, and conversations,” Gandhi said. “Modi’s job is to divide the country and our job is to unite the people.”

He met labourers in Tiruppur district after moving from Coimbatore. Gandhi is on a tour of the western belt where he will next visit Erode, Tiruppur, Karur and Dindigul districts to meet farmers, weavers and youngsters. The western region of the state is the bastion of the AIADMK which Congress’ longstanding ally and the principal opposition DMK is trying to breach. “We want to further strengthen our vote base and not just be dependent on alliance partners but we want to help our partners,” said AICC in-charge for Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Dinesh Gundu Rao.

Gandhi’s visit comes amidst severe strains in the DMK-Congress relationship in Puducherry. Local DMK leaders in the Union territory want to contest alone where the Congress’ V Narayanaswamy is the chief minister. “Puducherry is a Congress-based state and statements from the local DMK leadership were unwarranted,” said Rao. “DMK president MK Stalin has clarified on that issue. I hope things get sorted out,” he said adding that it will not cast a shadow in Tamil Nadu. In 2019, the DMK-led alliance with Congress in the state won 38 out of 29 Lok Sabha seats.

Incidentally, chief minister Edapaddi Palaniswami was also campaigning in Coimbatore on Saturday. Wearing a skull cap and addressing Muslims at an event, Palaniswami said, “We will never allow differences on religious lines. The AIADMK, which allied with the BJP before 2019 elections, will fight the 2021 polls together. “There is some fear over the centre's laws but minorities need not be afraid. Our government will protect you. We will not compromise on your rights under any circumstances. No one can intimidate anyone born in this soil. Everyone has a right to live,” Palaniswami said.

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