"Congress has all along been with the tribals and worked for their development. My family has special attachment with the tribals," Gandhi claimed this addressing at two public meetings in tribal dominated Koraput and Nabarangpur parliamentary seats.
It was his party, he said, which had fought for tribals of Kalahandi and saved the Niyamgiri Hills and its people. The BJD government in Odisha was planning to hand the sacred hill to a company, Rahul Gandhi said.
A woman writes on a wall dedicated to the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 during the the Malaysian F1 Grand Prix at Sepang outside Kuala Lumpur. (Reuters)
Rahul Gandhi was apparently referring to the government rejecting a proposal by mining company Vedanta Resources Plcs to develop a bauxite mine on the Niyamgiri hills which was considered sacred to tribals. 12 gram sabhas had also rejected the plan for bauxite mining on Niyamgiri.
Alleging that minerals over which the tribal people had rights, were being looted by the mafia, Rahul Gandhi said "The state government is run by the mine mafia and not by leaders. Valuable minerals worth thousands of crore rupees are being looted and state government is aware of it."
While a handful of mafia looted minerals resources of the state and became rich, the poor and the tribal people did not get any benefit, Gandhi said, adding that the Centre had set up a large number of institutes, medical colleges and hospitals for the people.
Gandhi said his family had long-standing bonds with the tribal. "I love to be in the midst of tribal people."
Recalling that his father Rajiv Gandhi had also visited the area and had affection for its people, he said he would continue to fight for the cause of tribes in the 'Delhi Durbar'.
Accusing the BJD government of being anti-tribal, Gandhi said "Though the Centre sends thousands of crores for the welfare of the tribal people, it was not reaching the beneficiaries at the village level. The state government is diverting central funds and taking credit without any justification."
Citing an instance, Rahul Gandhi said "We give money under the tribal sub-plan, but the funds are diverted by the state government to build a transport building."
He also accused the BJD government of diverting land and water meant for farmers and tribal.
"We are not opposed to water and land for industries. But there should be a balance between the two. The Odisha government is providing water to industries at the cost of farmers."
Gandhi said that the UPA government had waived farm loans of about Rs 70,000 crore despite opposition from political parties. "We believe that helping farmers is nothing but helping India's development."
On the land acquisition law, Rahul Gandhi said it would enable poor and tribal land-losers to get three times more.
The Rahul Gandhi scion also raised corruption issues like chit fund scam and alleged that ruling BJD leaders were behind the ponzi companies which duped the poor investors of their hard earned money.
Gandhi claimed that about 15 crore people had risen above the poverty line because of the Congress-led UPA government's MGNREGA and employment guarantee schemes.
"The UPA government has enacted Food Security Act, but your state government has not been implementing it," he alleged.
Gandhi said his party was committed to reserve 33 per cent of seats in state assemblies and Parliament if voted to power. "We have been trying to keep quotas for women in assemblies and Parliament, but some parties oppose it," he said.
He also promised that the UPA would ensure a railway line in Nabarangpur besides employment for local people.