Bhopal : Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi Tuesday expressed concern for the survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy and said his family was pained by the world’s worst industrial disaster that killed thousands 23 years ago.
Gandhi was addressing a rally during the last leg of campaigning for Thursday’s Madhya Pradesh assembly elections and urged the electorate to vote for the Congress to make the state capital beautiful.
“I still remember the day when my father (late Rajiv Gandhi – then prime minister) returned from Bhopal after the tragedy. I was not alone to be pained by the suffering of the people of Bhopal but the entire nation, including my family, was distressed,” he told a gathering of about 5,000 people who had waited for hours in the scorching sun to listen to the young Congress leader.
The Bhopal disaster, said to be worst in the world, occurred in the city Dec 3, 1984, resulting in the deaths of thousands. A Union Carbide subsidiary pesticide plant released 42 tonnes of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas, exposing at least 520,000 people to its toxic effects.
Gandhi also charged the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Madhya Pradesh with not fulfilling promises it made to the people of the state five years ago.
He said Bhopal is a beautiful city and people should vote for the Congress if they want to make it even better.
“They (BJP leaders) always make promises only to forgot them. Once they had promised to build Ram Temple, now they talk of eliminating terrorism. Tomorrow, it will be something else,” Gandhi said, adding, “Trust was the most important thing in politics which the people have lost in them (BJP)”.
He said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi had promised that if they formed a government at the centre, it would be for the “aam aadmi” (common man) and any one can see the steps taken by the two leaders for the welfare of the common man.
“Be it National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), Right to Information (RTI) Act, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) or loan waiver scheme for the farmers.”
Accusing the BJP of trying to divert the debate from lack of development in Madhya Pradesh to terrorism, he said: “Now when we ask them about the fulfilment of promises they had made in the run-up to the 2003 state polls, they talk about terrorism.”
“If there is no development in Madhya Pradesh, there are no roads, no electricity and no water, is it because terrorists have blocked the roads to development? Is it because of terrorists that there are no teachers in schools? Are terrorists uprooting electricity poles?” Gandhi asked.
Ending his 10-minute speech, a couple of minutes before the deadline for campaigning, he also went ahead and met the people in his usual style, breaking the security cordon.