Mandi: Indian National Congress Vice-President, Rahul Gandhi backed octogenarian leader Virbhadra Singh to lead the party in the coming assembly elections.

Rahul Gandhi, in his address at ‘Vijay Se Vikas’ rally at Paddal Ground in Mandi today, urged people of the state to make Virbhadra Singh Chief Minister of the state for the seventh time.

Highlighting achievements of the state in development, Rahul Gandhi made a comparison between Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh and praised the state Chief Minister for providing employment to around 70,000 youth in government sector besides strengthening health and educational institutions in the state.

Congress vice-president mentioned time and again to support congress to be led by Virbhadra Singh, who he said, is a ‘Fakir’ in true sense.

Rahul Gandhi asked party cadre to stand united to accomplish the goal of formation of Congress government in the state with Virbhadra Singh as the Chief Minister.

He came down heavy on the policies of the Union government and blamed Narendra Modi for decline in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). He said that the fall in GDP by two percent speaks in volumes about mismanagement of the economic reforms. He also condemned the Union Government for imposing Goods and Service Tax (GST) on people of the country creating trouble for all sections of the society. He said that services became more expensive and the decision was taken into haste ignoring small and marginal traders. He said

“Instead of one tax throughout the country, the NDA has imposed five different type of taxes completely derailing the economy with imposition of 28 percent tax from the very onset, which is proving biggest blow on the Indian economy.”

He also criticised the Union government on demonetisation of currency, adding that it was imposed on the people which caught them unaware.

Coming to comparative figures of development of the Prime Minister’s home state and the congress ruled Himachal Pradesh, Rahul Gandhi said that Himachal Government has given unemployment allowance of Rs.1000 to the unemployed whereas it was not being given in Gujarat. Congress led Himachal government opened or upgraded as many as 15000 schools whereas the Gujarat government closed 13,000 schools during last five years. HP government opened four medical colleges, 57 degree colleges as opposite to Gujarat where just 25 degree colleges have been opened and no medical college during last five years. He criticised the Gujarat model of development which he termed as befooling the people of Gujarat in name of development. He said that the financial assistance for housing for different categories was Rs 1.30 lakh to poor in Himachal whereas in Gujarat it was merely Rs 70,000. Social security pension was Rs.700 per month in Himachal and mere Rs.450 in Gujrat.

He said that the BJP played with the sentiments of youth in name of employment as it promised to provide two crore jobs per year to them, whereas the Modi government totally failed providing employment as promised. He also blamed the Modi government for failing to protect the interest of farmers also. Loan waiver policies of the Union government also made mockery of farmers in the name of waiving off loans, he further commented.

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh thanked people for co-operation and love they showered on him, further adding that he has family ties with people of the state and shared strong bonding with them.

He said that 95 percent of the educational institutions were opened during the successive congress regimes in the state. During last five years we have opened or upgraded around 230 health institutions in the state. The Chief Minister said that the government provided land for AIIMS as demanded by the Union Health Ministry, but the BJP state leaders claimed that Union Government sanctioned AIIMS and gave funds for it.

He also termed the steps of demonetisation and GST as detrimental to Indian economy.