AMETHI: Union minister Smriti Irani launched a blistering attack against Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi today and alleged that the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation here had not returned land taken from farmers.
Irani was addressing a public meeting in this constituency, seen as a bastion of the Congress, along with BJP president Amit Shah.
"Rahul, who used to talk about relief to farmers, did not return their land taken by Rajiv Gandhi Foundation here," the Union minister for information and broadcasting and textiles said.
In a broadside against the Congress vice president and Amethi MP, Irani said she wanted to address those who saw Amethi just from the vote bank point of view.
"There is no collector's office here. If Rahul is hearing me today I want to say that you used to talk about development in the country and abroad. You make a mockery of development in Gujarat," she said.
Referring to the closure of a cycle factory called Samrat, she said, "... the country was surprised that the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, headed by Rahul, which did not do any commercial activities has purchased it. The land should be freed and given back to the farmers."
Irani had created a stir in 2015 when she accused the top Congress leadership of usurping nearly 65 acres of land acquired from farmers for setting up a manufacturing unit, Samrat Cycle, a project that never materialised.
Noting that the BJP won four out of five seats during the 2017 assembly polls when Shah had come here, Irani said, "In 2019 (Lok Sabha polls) BJP will win here."
During the 2014 polls, she said she had gone to a village which had been boycotting elections.
"When I asked villagers why they were doing so, they said they could not meet their leader. Then I told them that Rahul might not have time, but I will be available for you and requested the village head to vote," she said.
Irani led a high-voltage campaign against Rahul Gandhi in Amethi in 2014. Gandhi secured 4,08,651 votes against Irani's 3,00,748.
Though Irani lost to the Congress vice president in Amethi, she managed to reduce his victory margin from around 3.70 lakh in 2009 to 1.07 lakh in 2014.
She told reporters yesterday that a former Congress MLA along with 60-70 village pradhans had joined the BJP.