Ending speculations over the party's chief ministerial candidate in Himachal Pradesh, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said Virbhadra Singh will "become the Chief Minister for the seventh time".
Clearing indicating that the party stands behind Virbhadra Singh, who is facing cases of disproportionate property and is out on bail, he said: "Virbhadra Singh ji has done tremendous development as six-time Chief Minister. He will be the CM for the seventh time. This will have full backing of the party."
Officially launching the election campaign at a public meeting here, Gandhi, in his 15-minute address in Hindi, compared the development of this hill state ruled by the Congress with that of BJP-ruled Gujarat. Both are likely to go to the assembly polls simultaneously in November.
"The people of Himachal should compare the five-year tenure of Virbhadra Singh's government with that of the BJP government in Gujarat.
"In Himachal Pradesh not even a single government school is closed, whereas the Gujarat government has closed 13,000 government schools.
"Himachal Pradesh has opened four medical colleges in the past five years, whereas Gujarat has not opened even one," he said.
Noting that Congress-ruled Himachal Pradesh has provided government employment to approximately 70,000 youth and is providing an unemployment allowance of Rs 1,000 per month, he said that the Gujarat government in the past five years provided less than 10,000 government jobs and not even providing unemployment allowance.
Taking a jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gandhi said the central government had hurriedly implemented the Goods and Services Tax, which was initially initiated by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, and has resulted in job losses.
"In Gujarat alone, 30 lakh young men and women have lost their jobs due to GST," he said.
There is a competition with China and China provides jobs to 50,000 youths every day whereas the Modi government gives jobs to 450 youths."
He said instead of one tax throughout the country, the central government has imposed five different types of taxes, completely derailing the economy with imposition of 28 percent tax from the very onset. "This is the biggest blow on the Indian economy."
In the BJP-ruled states thousands of farmers were committed suicides every day. "Neither they (the BJP governments) give bonus nor did they help them. But they give only speeches," he said.
The Congress leader, who earlier visited the state on December 24 last year to address a public meeting to mark the completion of four years of the state government led by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, blamed the Central government for the GDP decline.
"The fall in GDP by 2 per cent speaks in volumes about mismanagement of the economic reforms," he added.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh credited the development of the state to the Gandhi family, right from Jawaharlal Nehru to Rajiv Gandhi.
On laying the foundation of a Rs 1,350 crore 750-bed AIIMS hospital in Bilaspur town by the Prime Minister on October 3, he said the government has provided land to AIIMS as demanded by the Union Health Ministry.
"I want to make it clear that it is the responsibility of the central government to provide state share for undertaking development and the funds provided for AIIMS is not from anyone's pocket. It is the funds from Bharat Sarkar (Indian government) from the share of the states," he added.