Mumbai/Thane: Without naming Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday compared him with prominent fugitives and expressed suspicion that even "he may run away" like Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi.
"Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi ran away with Rs 35,000 crore, Vijay Mallya took off with Rs 9,000 crore and even Lalit Modi decamped... But he says nothing... He will also run away," Gandhi said, addressing a massive meeting of the party's booth-level workers in suburban Goregaon this evening.
Launching his sharpest attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Modi, Gandhi said claimed there was "fear" now in Modi's voice.
"Unki awaaz me ek ghabraahat hai (There is fear in his voice)... The Prime Minister runs the country through 'bhaashans' (speeches) only... But I am not scared as I am a soldier of truth," Gandhi said amid spontaneous rounds of claps punctuating his speech.
He said Modi had contended that he would be a watchman of the country and not the Prime Minister, but instead he has become "a watchman for only 15 to 20 rich people".
Gandhi said the country is suffering under the "lies" of Modi, while the Congress always stood for the truth.
Hinting at Opposition unity in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, he warned that the Congress and all other parties together will defeat the BJP.
"In Gujarat, you barely survived... In Karnataka you were thrown out. In Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, you will be nowhere in the picture. The Congress and Opposition parties will unitedly vanquish you," Gandhi said.
Referring to the demonetization of November 2016, the Congress President said that the common masses who used to eke out a survival with Rs 500 or Rs 1,000 were suddenly left in the lurch as the government laughingly spiked those currencies.
However, he said a certain Jayesh Shah (referring to BJP president Amit Shah's son) did not suffer and could convert his Rs 50,000 to Rs 80 crore in a short time.
Accusing the BJP and Modi of spreading hatred throughout the country, Gandhi pointed out that the Congress has always united India and taken everybody along.
"The ordinary Indians who voted for the BJP had faith in the Prime Minister, but now they feel Modi has betrayed their trust totally. Farmers were expecting proper prices for the produce from him, but now they die alone and the Prime Minister is not there with them... He has made everybody cry," Gandhi said.
He demanded to know where are the two crore jobs Modi promised, reiterating that the country continues to reel from high inflation, spiralling petrol-diesel prices and unemployment.
Earlier, Gandhi, who attended a court hearing in a defemation case in Bhiwandi (in adjoining Thane district), said: "Ours is a fight of ideology and the system... Let them file any number of court cases against me, I shall fight them... I am not bothered.
Bhiwandi Court judge A.I. Shaikh summoned Gandhi to the witness box and read out the charges against him, to which he pleaded not guilty.
The defamation case was filed by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activist Rajesh Kunte who objected to Gandhi's utterances at an election rally in March 2014 wherein he blamed the RSS for the killing of Mahatma Gandhi.
The matter will come up for further hearing on August 10.
Arriving here this morning on his maiden visit to Maharashtra after taking over as Congress President, Gandhi was greeted with hoardings proclaiming him as the 'Future Prime Minister' on the roads outside the Mumbai Airport to Thane.
He was accorded a warm welcome by state party President Ashok Chavan, Mumbai city chief Sanjay Nirupam, party General Secretary Mohan Prakash, former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, former Union Ministers Ashok Gehlot and Gurudas Kamat, former state ministers Naseem Khan and Manikrao Thakre, and other leaders like Janardhan Chandurkar, Bhai Jagtap, Raju Waghmare and hundreds of party workers.
This afternoon, Gandhi launched the Congress' national initiative 'Project Shakti' by which the he would establish direct communication between the grassroots workers and the party's central leadership, said Nirupam.