For UP poll, Rahul pitches corruption against retail FDI

Written by Nistula Hebbar | Nistula Hebbar | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 3 2011, 07:49am hrs
As the battle lines are drawn for the all-important Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, the Congress party is sharpening its knives. The message sent from the top to the partys rank and file is unmistakable: Focus the campaign on what it claims is unbridled corruption in the Mayawati administration. This, party managers reckon, would prevent the retail FDI issue from taking centre stage.

Congressmen in the state are looking forward to Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalias visit to Bundelkhand over the weekend to attend a meeting of the advisory committee on the areas development. Ahluwalias presence in the meeting assumes significance as the committee, set up to monitor a special R7,266-crore fund allocated by the Centre, will likely deliberate on the allegations of rampant corruption against the state government, which is tasked to implement the package.

After a week of being on the back foot over the decision to allow 51% foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, during which chief minister Mayawati accused AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi of encouraging the policy to benefit his foreign friends, Congressmen cant wait to counterattack the state government and the issue clearly is graft.

We are happy that Ahluwalia is visiting Bundelkhand. There are allegations of rampant corruption to the tune of R1,000 crore which have come to light. We hope that those will be taken up, said Raj Babbar, spokesperson for the partys campaign in the state.

Gandhi held a two-and-a-half-hour-long meeting of his campaign committee in New Delhi on Friday where FDI in retail and its possible impact on the UP polls were discussed. His line was very clear. He is reported to have told the group that FDI is not an election issue in UP, corruption is.

Babbar was more explicit. Small traders are not to be affected (by FDI in retail). Has Haldiram managed to shut down smaller outfits In any case, the real issue in UP is the state governments corruption, he said.

Gandhi will be meeting all party candidates over December 7 and 8, to ram the message home.

Quite clearly, the debate on FDI in retail within the Congress despite protest letters by UP MPs Sanjay Singh and Praveen Aron appears to be over. Corruption and lack of development despite ample funds will be the main planks of the campaign.