Shillong: Thousand of people from all walks of life came out on the streets of the Meghalaya capital as Congress President Rahul Gandhi held a massive road show ahead of the February 27 assembly elections.
This is the first time that a top national politician has held a road show in the state, where the Congress is ruling for more than a decade and is confident to retain power.
During his 10-km-long road show which stretched from the advanced landing ground in Upper Shillong to Khyndai Lad, Gandhi was greeted by young and old, even as he got down from the pick-up vehicle and shook hands with a cross-section of people.
He also undertook a short foot march and entered a motor garage appealing to them vote for the Congress.
“We have the people’s support and I am confident we will retain power in Meghalaya,” Gandhi told IANS after addressing his last leg of election campaign at Khyndai Lad, the main commercial town in Meghalaya.
In his speech on the occasion, he said: “The Congress is the spirit of freedom in this country, it is the voice of the millions and millions of people of this country and that is what we are defending here in Meghalaya because no matter how much money these people have, it doesn’t matter, how strong they are.. we will defeat them because we are for freedom and we are for the voice of the people of Meghalaya and voice of the people of the rest of the country.
He also sought to caution the people about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attempt to “poison” one Indian person against another person, one tribal person against another tribal person, one dalit against another person from another caste.
“You (voters) have to give these people (BJP) a message not only in Meghalaya, you have to give them a message for the rest of the country and you have to tell them that ‘listen you cannot buy us, you cannot take our ideas away from us, you cannot crush us, you cannot take our way of thinking, you cannot take our language, our music.
“We will sing any song we want, we will play any instrument we want,” Gandhi asserted to thunderous applause.
Attacking the BJP for offering money to churches ahead of the polls, he said: “Their entire idea is always to divide, to oppress and to be nasty. They think that they can come here and they can buy the church, the religion and God.
“This is the level of arrogance that I find…. I don’t like to use strong words but I have no other word to use except the word disgusting for that is what it is. But it is disgusting.”
“They can buy some MLAs or they can form the government in Goa by buying a couple of people or they can form the government in Manipur by buying a couple of MLAs, may be they can even buy a couple of Congress MLAs in Meghalaya but they have the arrogance to believe that they can actually buy the church… can you imagine that?” he added.
Lashing out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not condemning on attack on churches or other atrocities, Gandhi said: “Our Prime Minister can spend 1 hour 45 minutes explaining to little children how to pass exams, but he cannot spend five minutes condemning when churches in Madhya Pradesh are burnt, he could not spend five minutes condemning when a poor Dalit is butchered, he cannot spend five minutes when a Muslim man is butchered, when a tribal is butchered.”
Prior to his road show, Gandhi addressed an election rally at Jowai, the district headquarters in West Jaintia Hill, about 60 km from Shillong.