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Rahul Gandhi pledges to restore special status to northeastern states

Rahul accused the BJP of trying to destroy the social and cultural ethos of the people of the Northeast by imposing on them the "RSS ideology".

Rahul Gandhi pledges to restore special status to northeastern states
File photo

Itanagar: The Congress will restore special category status to all states of the Northeast if voted to power at the Centre, party president Rahul Gandhi said Tuesday, reaching out to the electors of the region where it is a sensitive issue.

He also accused the BJP of trying to destroy the social and cultural ethos of the people of the Northeast by imposing on them the "RSS ideology".

Addressing a Congress rally in the run up to the Lok Sabha and Arunachal Pradesh assembly polls to be held simultaneously, Gandhi sought to appeal to the regional sentiments, saying his party will never "attack the language, culture, customs and traditions" of the Northeastern states.

"The people of the region are close to Congress's heart. The Congress has always worked for the development of the region. My party, if voted to power, will restore the special category status to Arunachal Pradesh and other states in the Northeast," he told a well attended rally at Indira Park here.

The Congress party's last standing citadel in the Northeast fell in November last year when BJP ally Mizo National Front stormed to power in the state.

There are some states which require special status because of their "unique problems and difficulties" such as connectivity, terrain and infrastructure, he said. Gandhi said these states had special status when the Congress helmed the central government.

The Congress president called Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP's slogan of "Congress mukt Bharat" an expression of "hatred" towards the main opposition party.

"However, the Congress being a secular party would not even want the BJP finished," he said.

Accusing the BJP-led central government of imposing "RSS ideology" across the country, including the Northeast, Gandhi alleged ineligible people with Sangh family background were appointed as vice chancellors.

Touching upon yest another sensitive issue of Citizenship (amendmdent) Bill, Gandhi said his party will never allow it to be passed by Parliament as it is detrimental to the people of the region.

"We will not allow the suppression of the people of the Northeast," he asserted.

"After the NDA government came to power, the Planning Commission, which was set up for meticulously planned development, keeping in mind the special requirements of the region, was replaced with Niti Aayog.

"Earlier, all schemes for northeastern states were planned in due consultation with the respective state governments, but now all planning is done in Delhi," he added.

Noting that Arunachal Pradesh has a special place in the Congress's scheme of things, Gandhi said his party wants a "bonding of hearts" with the people of the northeastern state.

The Congress leader promised his party will give a fresh impetus to infrastructure development in Arunachal Pradesh if voted to power.

He also pledged to revive the Special Plan Assistance (SPA) scheme and North East Industrial Policy for giving a boost to the region's economy.

Reaffirming the Congress's commitment to providing 'Guaranteed Minimum Income' to every citizen, Gandhi claimed that instead of giving loans to the unemployed youth of Arunachal Pradesh, the Modi government wrote off the Rs 3.5 lakh crore debt of a handful of industrialists.

He dubbed as a "blantant lie" the BJP's promise of creating two crore jobs a year. "Instead, there are more than two crore unemployed youth now," he said.

Polling for the 60-member Arunachal Pradesh assembly and the state's two Lok Sabha seats will be held on April 11.