SANGRUR/GIDDERBAHA/LAMBI: As the poll campaign in Punjab wound down, Rahul Gandhi today accused AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal of "helping" forces who want to disturb Punjab's peace and push it back to the dark days of militancy, remarks that came against the backdrop of Maur Mandi blast.
The ruling Badal family of SAD was also targeted by Rahul as the Congress Vice-President undertook a whirlwind tour of the border state during which he sat on a mat and had food with locals in Sangrur village after addressing a gathering.
Punjab goes to polls on Saturday.
Rahul addressed a series of rallies in the Malwa belt, which is crucial to any party's win, as it has the bulk of seats in the 117-member State Assembly.
Dressed in a kurta-pyjama and a sleeveless jacket, Rahul began the last day of a poll campaign by addressing a gathering in Ballian village in Sangrur, where he sat on a mat and listened to the grievances of a cross-section of people including farmers, Dalits and women.
He then followed it up with by addressing rallies in Gidderbaha and Lambi and minutes before campaigning was to end at 5 p.m., Rahul also addressed a rally at Fatehgarh Sahib.
Lambi is the home constituency of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, from where State Congress chief Amarinder Singh is also in the fray.
Rahul said that if Congress is voted to power it would among others bring a tough law to deal with drug menace in Punjab and ensure that Panchayat land on which poor have right is given to them.
At all the places, Rahul talked about the "Tera" (spirit of giving) philosophy of the Sikh Gurus as against "Mera hai Mera hai" (everything is mine) philosophy of the Akalis.
Rahul also referred to the Tuesday night's car explosion in Maur Mandi in Bathinda, which left six dead.
The blast had occurred shortly after the "jansabha" of Congress candidate Harminder Singh Jassi, who is contesting the February 4 elections from Maur Assembly seat.
"The most important thing is the atmosphere you live in.
If that atmosphere gets spoiled, violence starts or anger prevails, then the work of farmers, labourers, weaker sections suffers, entire state suffers, you know it very well," Rahul said.
Taking a veiled dig at the ruling Akalis and the AAP, Rahul said, "from one extremist thinking, Punjab should not go to other extremist thinking. Congress is one such party which takes all sections along. We want that Punjab should rapidly progress."
"But if violence breaks, anger prevails, then everything will be destroyed. We have to understand that those forces, which destroyed Punjab earlier (referring to militancy period in the state), because of whom violence broke, such forces are yet again raising their head."
"Bomb blast took place and six people died (Maur). Arvind Kejriwal, who is Delhi's Chief Minister, is helping these forces and helping them raise their head. And this is the most dangerous thing for Punjab.
"If these forces raise their head again, then entire agenda will be hijacked and Punjab will look in some other direction," he warned.
Rahul said, "So, it is necessary all of us together, be from any religion, caste or creed, we all should again stand up so that we can build a Punjab, which was known for its spirit of giving, a path as shown Guru Nanak Dev and Guru Gobind Singh."
Rahul said the Sikh Gurus talked of taking everyone along.
"We want to bring back that spirit of Punjabiyat, where everyone used to participate and share moments of joy and grief together," Rahul, said, adding Punjab can show the direction to entire India.
"Congress will also bring a storm of love in Punjab, where we will work to preserve peace and brotherhood of the State. We will bring everyone closer and do what is for the benefit of the State," Rahul said.
Addressing the gathering while sitting on a cot with villagers and farmers of Ballian in Sangrur, he deliberated on farmers' issues and pointed out that during UPA's time farm loans worth Rs 70,000 crore were waived.
He promised the people that if Congress forms the next government in Punjab, the "burden of state's farmers will be lessened".
From Sangrur constituency, Congress has fielded its former MP Vijay Inder Singla, who was also present there.
Rahul appealed to the people to strengthen the hands of Congress to bring growth back on the rails in Punjab, which he alleged had seen destruction under the Badals' rule.
"The money of Punjab is the money of its farmers and labourers and would be spent on their development," promised Rahul said, as he alleged that the Badal family was squarely responsible for all the mess in the state, including the industrial and agricultural ruin.
"They plundered the state for their own interests. They have ruined the state by controlling everything here," he alleged.
With the Malwa belt of Punjab being infamous for number of cancer cases, Rahul promised to have a world-class cancer hospital set up so that people do not have to go elsewhere for treatment.
Referring to the train between Bathinda and Bikaner, which has come to be known as Malwa's "cancer train", Rahul said once a hospital is set up here, people need not go anywhere.
He also said that within four months, the Congress will bring a new law wherein free treatment will be given to the poor for various ailments, be it cancer, heart diseases, diabetes or any other.
With the drug menace becoming a major election issue in Punjab, Rahul promised a tough law to wipe out "chitta" and jail for those responsible for playing with the lives of youth.
"Drug menace has snuffed the lives of the youth. We promise that we will wipe out this menace within one month and frame a tough law to deal with the menace (if Congress forms the next government in Punjab)," he said.
He said, "Within two months, that Panchayat land, on which poor have right, will be given to the poor people."
"Without the land, poor cannot move forward and carve out a better future," he said.
Rahul said there is a huge backlog in government jobs, thousands of jobs which the poor and other sections should have got, have not been given to them during SAD-BJP rule.
"Within three months, these jobs will be given in a transparent manner," he said.
He also promised free treatment to the poor people of Punjab in the hospitals.
"We showed how we could do this in Rajasthan and now here also we will do it," he said.
Addressing a poll gathering in Lambi, in which Amarinder Singh among others was also present, Rahul said Punjab was once famous for its flourishing industries in Ludhiana and Jalandhar.
"People used to come here from other states and far off places to set up industry. However, during Badals' time, industry started shifting from the state to other places because of their lopsided policies. They also sought commissions, forcing the industry out of here," he alleged.
Noting that "industries are shifting to Jharkhand and Haryana", Rahul said Congress' focus will be to revive the industry and give jobs.
"We will not only give jobs in the government sector, but also in the private sector thousands of jobs will be given," he said.
Turning toward Amarinder, Rahul told the gathering, "Amarinder Singh is fighting the polls, he will become Chief Minister of Punjab. In Punjab, Amarinder Singh will work for you and in Delhi, in the Lok Sabha, I will work for you."
Prior to Lambi, Rahul also addressed an election meeting at Gidderbaha in Muktsar district, from where youth Congress leader Amrinder Singh Raja Warring is contesting as party candidate.
Referring to Warring, Rahul told the gathering that "He is a good candidate, works very hard and if you elect him, he will work even harder."