Northeast has big place in my heart: Rahul Gandhi

Gangtok, April 25 (Inditop) Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi Saturday charmed people of Sikkim, saying that the northeast had a “big place” in the hearts of his family, as a mammoth gathering here cheered him.

Gandhi arrived here around 1 p.m. for a visit of less than an hour, but that was enough to leave many people, especially the youth, enthralled.

“This is not my first visit here. I was here for almost a month to train at the Sonam Gyatso Mountaineering Institute when I was 18 years old,” Gandhi, donning a traditional Lepcha jacket and a Nepali cap for the occasion, told the rally at Paljor Stadium.

As people recalled visits by his grandmother, late prime minister Indira Gandhi, and mother, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, he said his family had always felt deeply for the people of Sikkim and the northeast.

“We have a very big place for you in our hearts and that is why I am here. My family has always believed that the smallest segment of the people and the smallest states should be heard more since they have a very small voice,” he said amid claps and cheers.

Gandhi, an MP from Uttar Pradesh, said that unlike that state which has 80 Lok Sabha seats, Sikkim has only one, but for the Congress and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) it leads, the smallest sections of people were as important as the big states.

Commending the youth of Sikkim, he said: “You have the potential and are hard workers. You are sensitive people who know how to work but what I feel is that even as you work outside your state, there should be avenues for you in your hometowns.

“The problem is not how to get the money (for such avenues), but how to get the money to people. The 30,000 unemployed youth in Sikkim should now be given avenues to flourish, which our government and I personally assure shall happen,” he said.

He appealed to youngsters to get involved in politics. “I shall come back to Sikkim once again with an NSUI programme as we want to see new leaders from this state,” he explained. The National Students Union of India is the Congress’s student wing.

Referring to the UPA government’s flagship welfare initiatives, he said the rural job guarantee scheme and the mid-day meal scheme were not being implemented satisfactorily in the region.

“Thus I ask you to vote for the government who you think shall do you justice. If you are not happy with the state government then change it for the better,” he stated.

He said the state had tremendous potential for tourism, an area which the state government needed to focus on.

“The central government shall help you with all it can. However, I think that the most important issue is that of education which is the future,” he added.

Criticising the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rahul Gandhi said: “They believe in boundaries and cannot justify the fact that a person from Sikkim can work or live in Mumbai or for that matter a person from Mumbai can live in Delhi. We have to vote against these ideologies.”