Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, who always chooses not to react to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati's repeated outbursts against him, appeared to be in a belligerent mood on Wednesday, when he virtually threw down the gauntlet at her.
The young Congress icon who was in Ambedkarnagar to flag off the party's "chetna yatra" (awareness march) in 10 different directions for the much sought after revival of the party in the country's most populous state, drew massive crowds at a rally convened by him to mark not only the birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar but also that of the 125th anniversary of the Congress party.
The high profile Congress general secretary virtually sounded the bugle for a symbolic launch of his party's campaign for the next state assembly elections ,due two years ahead. Mayawati's firm hold on voter in the dalit-dominated constituency might have deterred the Congress party from even fielding its nominee in the 2009 Lok Sabha election However , Rahul Gandhi was here to knock at Mayawati door to issue a warning that BSP's days were numbered.
"I am confident that with the support of the youth, Congress party will rewrite the destiny of this state which will experience a new era of development and employment", Rahul declared amids cheers from the crowds.
It was even more significant that Rahul chose the birth anniversary of BSP's most important icon Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar's birth anniversary to give out his battlecry against the ruling party which considers Ambedkar its "exclusive property."
He sought to make it loud and clear that he was here to "take UP out of the woods where it had sunk on account of the politics of caste and religion." Visibly impressed with the massive crowd that braved the scorching 43 degrees , Rahul said , "this glorious state has suffered over the past two decades essentially on account of the politics of caste and religion that dominated the state during these years."
His declaration- "I am here to change that politics ; what UP needs is the politics of youth , the politics of development and employment" drew resounding applause.
In an obvious bid to remind the gathering of his untiring efforts to revive a dormant Congress in the country's most populous state, he said, "when I started working in UP, the opposition scoffed and laughed at me, while the media predicted that there was no hope for the Congress at the last Lok Sabha elections ."
He however pointed out, "but the election results changed everybody's view as we bagged as many as 22 of the 80 seats". He went on to add, "I am back here to raise the key issues that affect the common masses, who continue to remain deprived and downtrodden, simply because their upliftment does not figure in the list of
priorities of those who have been sitting on the power pedestal here."
Giving examples of Mayawati's indifference towards the "real problems" facing the state, Rahul recalled how the UP chief minister had not cared to ensure proper implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) , "that was the only programme in the country to provide assured employment for 100 days in a year to the
He felt, "special funds released for the development of the highly backward Bundelkhand region were also not put to proper use and now when it came to implementing the Right to Education , the BSP regime has come up with all kinds of excuses for not implementing it."
He said, "I wonder how the UP chief minister continued to proclaim herself as the messiah of the poor and downtrodden classes when she seemed least interested in schemes and programmes aimed at the well being of those very classes of people.
Without spelling out her name, in an obvious reference to Mayawati's oft repeated criticism of his forays into the homes of dalits in rural Uttar Pradesh, he further sought to make it loud and clear, "I am committed to the cause of the poor and the needy who reside in villages because I feel that the true strength of India lies there."
Hinting at large scale pilferage of development funds , Rahul quipped, "there is no dearth of money for development or for the well being of the poor ; and he central government makes it a point to generously release funds for UP , but I fail to understand what happens to all that money ?"