Promises separate farm budget
Sparing the Left Democratic Front and its government that rules the State and hitting hard at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi hele-hopped across southern Kerala on Tuesday addressing as many as four election meetings.
Taking the pulse of each region where he addressed the electorate, Mr. Gandhi touched upon local issues to establish a connect with the voters even as he weaved the Congress party’s national poll narrative of Mr. Modi’s ‘five-year misrule’ in all the meetings.
Addressing a campaign meeting of United Democratic Front candidate Anto Antony at Pathanamthitta, Mr. Gandhi, without mentioning the word Sabarimala, said the people of India had the right to pursue their religious faith and practices and the Congress had never opposed it.
Mr. Gandhi said the BJP was dreaming of a Congress-free India. But, the Congress says “we will fight against the RSS and BJP ideology with love and affection. We will defeat them. But we will not eliminate them,” he said.
“The great Congress tradition is one that holds the diverse religious traditions, cultures, and practices [of the country] to its chest. The party has never thought of India as north or south. Its culture is not like the Sangh Parivar ideology of one thought, one language, one culture, and one history for India. The Congress believes that the voice of India should run this country,” he said.
Soliciting votes for UDF’s Mavelikara candidate Kodukunnil Suresh and Kollam candidate N.K. Premachandran at Pathanapuram, he sought to highlight the crisis gripping the cashew industry.
The Prime Minister never bothered to listen to the grievances of cashew labourers or tried to address the issue. “All it needed to transform the lives of cashew labourers was ₹300 crore, but he chose to give ₹30,000 crore to Anil Ambani through Rafale deal. The PM keeps talking about nationalism, then gives world’s biggest defence contract to a man who has never made an aircraft. If Narendra Modi can give ₹3.5 lakh crore to 15 richest people of India, the Congress can give it to the poor. We will start a conversation with cashew labourers and we will do whatever is possible to help the cashew sector and the Government of Kerala to solve the crisis,” he said.
Highlighting the promise of a farm budget in the Congress manifesto in Alappuzha where the flood-ravaged Kuttanad falls, Mr. Gandhi said: “The paddy farmers are in distress in Kerala following floods. We will present a dedicated farm budget every year. The farmers can plan their future in tune with the budget. Once we come to power, no farmer in India will be put in jail for not repaying their bank loan.” He was campaigning for UDF’s Shanimol Usman.
Seeking votes for Shashi Tharoor and Adoor Prakash at a meeting in Thiruvananthapuram which bore the brunt of Cyclone Ockhi, Mr. Gandhi promised a separate Ministry for Fisheries to address the unique problems faced by the fisherfolk.