ZIRAKPUR, Punjab: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi today hit out at Punjab's SAD-BJP government, accusing it of "ignoring" the serious drug problem and "betraying" the farmers of the state.
"The drug problem is a very serious issue in Punjab and it has always been a serious one. But the Akali government has ignored it," he said here after a meeting with 2,000-2,500 party members including MLAs, MPs and office-bearers.
Accusing the SAD-BJP government of not being serious about eliminating the drug problem, he said Congress has to make sure that steps are taken to eradicate it.
He said when he had raised the issue of drug problem in Punjab, the SAD-BJP dispensation had made fun of him.
Reacting to the accusation by SAD-BJP combine about drug problem claims being an insult to Punjab, Gandhi said nobody can harm the image of the state.
"Nobody can insult Punjab. Punjab is the heart of the country. Punjab gives life to the country. There is a place for Punjab in my heart. I want to help Punjab," he said.
Hailing Punjab's farmers for their "hard work", he claimed a sense of "betrayal" prevailed among the peasantry as the Akalis have "let them down".
The Congress Vice President also demanded that there be no delay in disbursal of payment to wheat-growers.
Painting a grim picture of Punjab, he said, "Industry is closing in the state and the issue of cancer also prevails."
He said if Congress is voted back to power in Punjab in the 2017 Assembly polls, the state will witness rapid development.
"When our party forms government (next year), the drug problem will soon be solved," he said, adding Congress wants to give a "new kind" of government which would be sensitive to the needs of the people.
He also claimed that the party faced no threat from Aam Aadmi Party.
Asked about allocation of party tickets for the 2017 assembly polls, he said that representation will be given toall sections of the society.
"Tickets will be given to all -- young, experienced and women," he said, adding that at least 45 per cent tickets will be allocated to the youth.
He said nominees will be finalised six months before the assembly polls.
Rejecting the suggestion that Congress decides on election tickets at the high command level, he said that "it is absolutely a myth and incorrect."
"Congress does not decide on tickets in Delhi, but a decision is taken at district level," he said. "Punjab has reached a very sad position," he said, adding the state at one time used to show the path to the entire country on all fronts.
Referring to his visit to Haryana, he said Haryanvis say that it a matter of pride that they are miles ahead of Punjab.
"We need to change this and make Punjab stand up and be successful again," he said.
Asked about the party's social media campaign, he attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and alleged that BJP spent about Rs 800 crore to tarnish his image on social media.
Congress does not spend on social media to tarnish anyone's image, be it Modi or Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
"If Congress utilises its strength in a systematicmanner, it will form the next government in Punjab," he said.
Asked who will be the chief ministerial candidate of the party, he said that Congress follows a process where the CM is declared after the election.
Gandhi refused to comment on the contentious Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal issue, saying the matter is sub-judice.
Gandhi's meeting with party leaders, which was organised by poll strategist Prashant Kishor's organisation Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC), was out of bounds for the media.
Congress aims to wrest power in Punjab in 2017 after setbacks in the 2007 and 2012 polls, when it was defeated by the SAD-BJP coalition.