Launching a frontal attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Thursday criticised the saffron party's prime ministerial candidate L K Advani, saying he was not a 'strong' leader.
Talking about the Kandhahar hijacking, Gandhi said, "For the first time, they sent a minister to release the terrorists. Then Home Minister (Advani) now says he was not aware of it. Does a strong leader talk like this?"
Addressing an election rally in support of Congress candidate Surendra Goel in Ghaziabad, who is pitted against BJP president Rajnath Singh, Gandhi said, "In such a situation, a strong leader would have resigned."
The young Congress leader also said that Advani was now claiming such things when former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee "is not in a position to defend himself on the Kandhahar episode".
"A strong leader does not talk about Jinnah in Pakistan," Gandhi said with sarcasm.
Hailing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Gandhi scion described him as a strong leader. "When the Left parties put pressure on the government and said they would withdraw the support on the nuclear deal, I met Manmohan Singh. He told me it was important for the future. He said 'governments come and go'. This is the characteristic of a strong leader," the Congress general secretary remarked.
Gandhi also hailed Manmohan Singh, saying the PM talked about the poor and wanted to take them along in the process of development. Ridiculing the BJP for using the slogan of 'India Shining' in the 2004 elections, Gandhi said the Congress does not believe in such slogans until every child goes to school and college, until poverty is abolished and every farmer is happy.
"We will continue to say India is progressing fast," he said. The young leader referred to the Congress' National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, loan waiver for farmers, mid-day meals at schools and the Indo-United States nuclear deal, describing them as a step forward in the country's development.
"The Congress stands for progress for everybody, for the rich and poor, for people belonging to every religion, every caste, and every state," Gandhi said.
Criticising the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena in Maharashtra, Gandhi said the party's chief Raj Thackeray had asked people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to leave Mumbai. "All of us are Indians and we have to progress together," he said.
Referring to the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party government in UP, Gandhi said it was a matter of regret that "we cannot provide all the help to the people as our hands are tied".
"We have to change it in three years. We will change it," Gandhi said, referring to the next assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
In a sharp attack on the BJP for describing Manmohan Singh as a weak leader who cannot fight terrorism, Gandhi said after the terror attack on Mumbai, the PM put so much pressure on Pakistan that it had to admit that the terrorists came from there.
"I went to Kashmir recently. There is peace... there is tourism," he said, referring to the normalcy in the Valley. He claimed that the situation had become peaceful in Kashmir after the United Progressive Alliance came to power.