Attack, Counter-Attack by Rahul Gandhi and Himanta Biswa Sarma to be “Most Corrupt”
NEW DELHI, Jan 18: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday stepped up his attack on Himanta Biswa Sarma-led BJP government in Assam soon after his “Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra” entered the state describing his former party colleague as “perhaps the most corrupt” chief minister.
The accusation drew a swift and sharp counter attack from Sarma who called the Gandhi family, the country’s most corrupt. He also threatened to initiate police action against the Yatra if it attempted to enter Guwahati, the state’s capital city.
The Yatra entered Assam from Nagaland earlier on Thursday and will continue till January 25n travelling 833 km in 17 districts. Addressing a public gathering at Haloating in Sivasagar district, Mr Gandhi slammed the ruling BJP and its ideologue Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for “spreading hatred and looting public money.”
“The government in Assam is one of the most corrupt. You are all aware of it. We will highlight it during our yatra… probably Assam’s chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is the most corrupt,” Gandhi said.
“Not just him (Himanta), Sarma’s wife and other family members are mired in corruption. He thinks that he can buy the people of Assam, but he is wrong” Gandhi added. The Wayanad MP also repeated his attacks on the BJP and the RSS accusing them of spreading hatred in the country and make followers of one religion fight with the other. “Their aim is to make the public fight and then loot their money,” he said.
Sarma, who exited the Congress in 2014 and is widely credited for playing a key role in the BJP’s expansion in the northeast, hit back within hours. “According to me, the most corrupt family in the country is that of the Gandhis,” Sarma told reporters.
“From the Bofors scam to allowing (Warren) Anderson (of Union Carbide) to flee the country after the Bhopal gas tragedy, they are responsible for all. They are not just corrupt, but duplicate as well,” Sarma said.
Sarma, who has been accusing the Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi of being against the Hindus, on Thursday said the Yatra was meant only for ‘miyas’ (a reference for Bengali-speaking Muslims in Assam with origins in Bangladesh) and said only some people from that community will go to attend Gandhi’s events in the state.
The yatra started from Tuli in Nagaland early on Thursday before entering Assam at Haluating in Sivasagar district around 9am. From there, it moved to Jorhat district where Gandhi will spend the night before proceeding to Majuli district on Friday morning.
Sarma also said his government would take legal action if the Rahul Gandhi-led ‘Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra’ enters the Guwahati city. “If the Yatra takes place inside Guwahati city, the government will take legal action. There is a hospital and a school in the city, if Rahul Gandhi still takes a Yatra from inside the city, we will register a case,” said the Chief Minister.
Jairam Ramesh, Congress General Secretary in Charge of Communications, while addressing a press conference claimed that the Sarma government was making all efforts to ‘ensure that Bharat Jodo Yatra is not a success.’
“We are in Assam till 25th January. The state government is making all efforts to ensure that Bharat Jodo Yatra is not a success here. Assam government posing hurdles to the Yatra, but we have faith that all sections of Assam including youth and women will listen to what Rahul Gandhi has to say,” he said.
Coinciding with the march, the Assam government on Thursday began the distribution of forms for a scheme to develop 40 lakh Self Help Group (SHG) members as rural micro-entrepreneurs at individual levels and help them become ‘lakhpati baidews (millionaire elder sister)’.
The Congress alleged that the state government fixed dates for the distribution of forms in such a manner that it clashes with Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra’ in the state. But Mr Sarma refuted the charge claiming that the dates for the distribution of forms were fixed much before the Yatra schedule was announced.
“It is Rahul Gandhi’s (yatra schedule) that is coinciding with our welfare dates (dates on which forms are to be distributed for a new scheme), not us who planned for this. These dates were declared even before we knew he was coming,” Mr Sarma said.
Talking about Manipur, from where the march began, Mr Gandhi said a civil war-like situation is in the hill State with ethnic violence going on since May 3 last year. “The State is divided and the Prime Minister has not visited there. In Nagaland, a framework agreement (to bring about a solution to the Naga political issue) was signed nine years ago and people are now asking what happened to it,” he said.
Rahul Gandhi’s Yatra hit the headlines minutes after crossing into the state when his specially designed bus didn’t stop at Amguri in Sivasagar district where a woman former Congress leader, who was expelled from the party in 2023 for six years, was sitting on the roadside along with hundreds of supporters seeking justice.
Ankita Dutta, daughter of a late Congress minister and the former chief of the Assam chief of Indian Youth Congress, was expelled from the party last year after she filed a police complaint against IYC national president Srinivas BV accusing him of harassment.
“I was expelled from the party without hearing my side of the story. I’ve been in exile for 10 months now and have not joined any other party. I was hoping to meet Gandhi and get justice, But that didn’t happen,” Dutta told reporters.
Assam Congress chief Bhupen Borah attributed motives for her protest. “She (Dutta) has become a victim of a political conspiracy. Everyone knows that I had assured her of providing justice at our party platform. But the next day chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said if she files a police complaint, he will ensure justice and Dutta lodged her police complaint. Now it’s a matter of investigation and sub judice issue and we can’t intervene in it. We will accept whatever judgement the court gives,” said Borah.
Dutta, the eldest daughter of late Anjan Dutta, a former Congress minister from Assam, had been grilled by both the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in 2022 for her alleged involvement in the Saradha Group financial scam.
Gandhi’s Yatra did stop at a pachayat office in Mariani of Jorhat district where application forms for the SHG members were being distributed. “The Assam government tried to keep women away from meeting Gandhi, but he chose to go and meet them instead. They are very happy and are thanking Gandhi for the Yatra as they feel if he hadn’t visited Assam, the state government might not have announced the scheme,” said Assam Congress president Bhupen Borah.