Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over issues including the Sino-India standoff and sought to establish an emotional connect with the people of poll-bound Tamil Nadu, saying he wants to have a relationship with them marked only by respect and affection. Launching his three-day Tamil Nadu tour ahead of the April 6 assembly elections, he attacked Modi, BJP and the RSS on a number of issues and charged the Prime Minister with seeking to "remote control" Tamil Nadu through Chief Minister K Palaniswami.
He also billed himself as a 'honest' man and therefore Modi "cannot control me" but was being targeted by him. At public interactions and meetings at different locations in Tuticorin and Tirunelvei districts, during some of which he mingled with the public, Gandhi missed no chance to take a swipe at Modi and also hit out at the 'corrupt' ruling AIADMK.
Training his guns against Modi over the Sino-India border standoff, he charged the PM with being 'scared' of the eastern neighbour and took a swipe at him for being only "useful to two people." "Essentially the Chinese occupied certain strategic areas in our country. They first tested the idea in Doklam." "They tested the idea to see how would India react and they noticed India did not react. And then they carried out the idea again in Ladakh and also I believe in Arunachal Pradesh," he said. Gandhi said Modi's first reaction to the Chinese incursions was "that nobody has come into India." "That indicated to the Chinese that the Prime Minister of India is scared of them.. they understood it. And since then the Chinese have negotiated on that principle," he said.
"They know that the Prime Minister of India cannot stand up to them. Mark my words, our land in Depsang, which is the most important land, is not going to come back to under this government." Giving such a message to the Chinese was "very dangerous to the future because the Chinese are not going to stop with Ladakh," he alleged. Later, at a well-attended public rally at Nanguneri in Tirunelveli, Gandhi was all praise for the love and affection of the Tamil people, saying they will repay them in larger quantity when shown. The only way to deal with Tamil people is through love, respect and affection, he added.
"As somebody who does not come from Tamil Nadu, I noticed something immediately. I might meet the poorest person, the weakest person, the person in maximum distress but they never lose their dignity. They never lose their self-respect," he said. Their situation might be terrible but they maintain their self-respect and dignity "which I admire," he said, adding, Tamil Nadu, with its small and medium businesses, is going to show India the future direction.
"The only relationship I want to have with the people of Tamil Nadu is one of respect and affection because I understand that is the only relationship that is possible. I understand the graciousness and the large heartedness of the Tamil people and that is the relationship we must share," he added. Hitting out at Modi, he said the Prime Minister was 'delusional' and thought he could "remote control" Tamil Nadu through the chief minister but said the people will "remove the battery and throw away." Palaniswami was not standing up to Modi because he was 'corrupt' and 'not honest,' Gandhi alleged.
"The only one reason Narendra Modi can't frighten me, is I am not corrupt. And because I am not corrupt I can stand up against him and tell him the truth," he said and claimed he was attacked consistently by the PM for this reason. Lashing out at Modi on demonetisation and GST, he said it had severely impacted small and medium businesses, saying "these are taxes on poor people." The "two-three" biggest corporates can get any amount of money from banks as loan "but the small and medium businesses in Tamil Nadu cannot get a rupee," he claimed.
"Narendra Modi is useful to two people. He is extremely useful because those two people are using the Prime Minister of India to increase their wealth dramatically," he said, repeating his "hum do, hamare do," jibe against him. On the the fall of Congress-led governments in Madhya Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh, among others, he alleged that they were 'bought' by the saffron party.
Democracy was 'dead' in the country, he said and blamed the RSS. Misuse of sedition laws, threatening and killing of people were the symptoms of the problem, he alleged. There was also a "full-scale assault" on secularism.
Such issues could be addressed only with "mass action" involving people. It was happening outside Delhi, he said, referring to the farmers' agitation against the new Central farm laws. He reiterated his opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act and the farm laws. The agriculture system need to be reformed, but not by destroying it, he said.
Later, interacting with salt pan workers, he recalled his party's poll-time promise of providing Rs 72,000 under the NYAY scheme and assured them that it would be implemented if the Congress was voted to power. He said it was strange that people who consume salt hardly realise how it is made or the difficulties of salt pan workers.
"People don't even realise there is salt in the vaccine shots they get as you have mentioned…" he added. The Congress leader also visited a salt pan.