KOPPAL, KARNATAKA: Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Sunday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to waive loans of farmers than working only for the rich, businessmen and industrialists.
"Though the Modi government works for the rich, businessmen and industrialists, I urge the Prime Minister to waive loans of farmers who are the backbone of the country," Gandhi said at a public meeting at Karatagi in Karnataka's Koppal district, about 350km northwest of Bengaluru.
Addressing a huge gathering in the state's northern region on the second day of his four-day visit to poll-bound Karnataka, Gandhi said there were two types of governments the world over -- one which works for industrialists, and other for the poor.
"The Modi government, which works for the rich, is slowly waiving Rs 10 lakh crore debt of businessmen but not loans of thousands of farmers across the country reeling under the agrarian crisis," the Congress chief said.
Gandhi is on his maiden visit to Karnataka after taking over the reins of the party in mid-December from his mother Sonia Gandhi and ahead of assembly polls in the southern state, due in late April or early May.
Asserting that the state's Congress government is "pro-farmer and pro-poor", following the principles of 14th century social reformer Basavanna, Gandhi said Chief Minister Siddaramaiah responded to his request to waive loans of farmers in June last year.
"Unlike Modi, Siddaramaiah walks the walk and waived crop loans (totalling Rs 8,165 crore) of over 22 lakh farmers who borrowed about Rs 50,000 each from state cooperative banks," Gandhi said.
Gandhi claimed that while the Modi government allotted Rs 55,000 crore for social welfare schemes across the country, the Karnataka government alone had spent half that amount (Rs 27,500 crore) for the benefit its the state's people from its resources.
Accusing the Modi government of failing to create 2 crore jobs per annum the Bharatiya Janata Party promised ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Gandhi said unemployment and the farm crisis were major challenges facing the nation.
"The BJP-led government has failed to create jobs, bring black money from abroad to the country and weakened the economy by demonetising currency (in November 2016) and hastily introducing Goods and Services Tax (GST) since July 1," the Congress leader added.
Referring to Modi's talk on corruption, Gandhi said the Prime Minister had forgotten that the first BJP government (2008-13) in the state, led by B.S. Yeddyurappa, was the "most corrupt".
Yeddyurappa resigned on July 31, 2011, after the anti-graft body (Lokayukta/Ombudsman) found him involved in the multi-crore mining scam in the state.
Gandhi's 30-minute speech in Hindi was simultaneously translated in the native language Kannada for the benefit of the audience.
Besides Siddaramaiah, Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, party's state unit President G. Parameshwara and others were present at the public meeting.