The Congress on Sunday hit back at Prime Minister Narendra Modi after he claimed that Sitaram Kesri -- who was from a "Dalit (scheduled caste) and exploited community"-- was not allowed to complete his term as the Congress president so that Sonia Gandhi could take over the reins of the party. The Congress said Kesri was given "due respect" and that he belonged to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and was not a scheduled caste.
Speaking at a poll rally at Mahasamund in Chhattisgarh, Modi claimed that Kesri was ousted unceremoniously, "locked in a bathroom" and "thrown out on the footpath".
"The Congress had said a chaiwala became the prime minister by the grace of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. I challenged them (to show that) when he (Nehru) had established such a democratic and liberal system, then make someone from outside the Gandhi family the Congress president for at least five years," he said.
"The country knows that Sitaram Kesri, who was from a Dalit and exploited community, was not allowed to complete his five-year term as the Congress president and was removed from the post," Modi added.
"They cannot even tolerate a Dalit, exploited and backward leader as its president, who was appointed under their compulsion, for two years. Then, how can they appoint someone, who is not from the Gandhi family, for five years," he added.
The Prime Minister also targeted the Gandhi family for running a “remote-controlled government".
"The remote was in the hands of a family, which was afraid of the BJP," he added.
"Remember the days when four generations of a family ruled the country. What was the fate of the people? They only thought about the welfare of one family but never about the welfare of people. How can we trust them to fulfil the aspirations of people now," Modi said.
Reacting to the allegations, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari tweeted: “Kesri was a bania OBC from Bihar and not a Dalit. However, when has the PM allowed facts or truth to stand in the way?”
Sitaram Kesri, a Dalit, wasn’t allowed to complete term as Congress president: PM Modi in Chhattisgarh | chattisgarh elections | Hindustan Times https://t.co/ummjggSL8J - Kesri was a Bania OBC from Bihar& not a DALIT.However when has PM allowed facts or truth to stand in the way?— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) November 18, 2018
Another Congress leader, Tariq Anwar, said Kesari had himself offered to resign from post of Congress president adding that he belonged to 'vaish' community.
“The PM is again wrong as Kesari ji was not a Dalit, he belonged to 'vaish' community. Kesari Ji himself offered to resign from post of Congress President if Sonia ji was ready to take over. At that time, I was Kesari ji's political advisor so I'm aware of it,” Anwar told news agency ANI.
PM is again wrong as Kesari ji was not a Dalit,he belonged to 'vaish' community. Kesari Ji himself offered to resign from post of Congress President if Sonia ji was ready to take over. At that time I was Sitaram Kesari's political advisor so I'm aware of it: Tariq Anwar, Congress pic.twitter.com/F7fJB7tJTo— ANI (@ANI) November 18, 2018
Modi also praised the high voter turnouts in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh in the first phase of polling on November 12.
He targeted Congress chief Rahul Gandhi over farm loan waiver, an issue that has taken centre-stage in the Chhattisgarh polls.
"As elections approach, the Congress plays a game of promises. But they cannot mislead the country anymore. They must answer what did they do for the welfare of our farmers when they ruled for four generations.
"They are making false promises of loan waiver to the people of Chhattisgarh. The same promise was made to farmers during the Karnataka polls, but even after around a year has passed, the promise is yet to be fulfilled.
"Instead, the government is issuing warrants and arresting the farmers whose debts are outstanding," he added.
The campaigning for the second and final phase of Chhattisgarh Assembly elections came to an end on Sunday evening. The high-decibel political campaign was a blame game between the rival parties over several ongoing factors like sufferings of farmers, unemployment and corruption. While the Congress is seeking to oust the Raman Singh-led government in the Maoist-hit state, the BJP will fight for its survival. The saffron party won three consecutive elections in Chhattisgarh and has been ruling the state for the last 15 years.
Polling for remaining 72 constituencies in 90-member assembly will take place across 19 districts on Tuesday, November 20, 2018. A total of 1,101 candidates are in the fray in the second phase of Chhattisgarh elections. In the first phase, polling was held for 18 assembly segments in the eight Naxal-hit districts of Chhattisgarh on November 12. The phase one recorded an impressive voter turnout of 76.28 per cent despite the Maoist threat.
Of the 19 districts going to the polls on November 20, Gariaband, Dhamtari, Mahasamund, Kabirdham, Jashpur and Balrampur have some Naxal presence. Therefore, security has been beefed up in these sensitive regions to avoid any untoward incidents.
(With agency inputs)