Congress leader Rahul Gandhi arrived at Goa's Azad maidan, a martyrs' monument in the state capital, riding on the pillion of a 'pilot' - a traditional motorcycle taxi in Goa. The state unit of the party tweeted a video showing Mr Gandhi on the vehicle.
Rahul Gandhi takes a ride on a 'pilot' - a traditional motor cycle taxi in Goa.#RahulGandhiWithGoapic.twitter.com/MDlHuOzGjL— Goa Congress (@INCGoa) October 30, 2021
Mr Gandhi left from there after laying wreaths and giving floral tributes at the Martyrs column.
The Congress leader is in the coastal state for a day-long visit ahead of assembly elections due early next year. He also interacted with members of the fishing community this morning in Velsao, a coastal village in the state. On the party's strategy for Goa, he said it was "to become the voice of the people of Goa" and protect their interests. The party is stressing the message of listening to the people and addressing their concerns throughout the campaign. He said that his party will prepare the poll manifesto in an open and transparent manner after holding talks with different stakeholders in the state, and its focus will be environmental protection.
Mr Gandhi also spoke about issues of infrastructure and the state becoming a "coal hub". "We are very clear that we do not want Goa to become a coal hub, and that goes for a lot of environmental destruction that is taking place here," he said.
Goa has been on the boil over three infrastructure projects - the expansion of a railway track and highway, and a new power line - that residents of the state believe will harm its pristine forests and pollute its picturesque towns with coal dust. The state witnessed widespread protests against the projects that run through the Mollem National Park and the Bhagwan Mahavir Sanctuary, a biodiversity hotspot, in December last year. The "Save Mollem" and "No to coal" campaigns have echoed with the locals and the grand old party is promising to protect the interests of the state's vulnerable locals.
"My credibility is important to me. Unlike many other leaders, when I say something here, I will make sure it happens. If I come here I say to you that we will not allow coal hub and I don't do it, next time I come here I will have no credibility," the Congress leader said.
Mr Gandhi stressed that there had to be a balance between development and the environment. "There should be a balance between big fishermen and small fishermen, the balance between big hotels and homestays. And the most important thing is that the balance has to be in favour of people of Goa and in particular people who are poorer," he said.
Development must not happen "for a couple of businessmen alone" as they have a huge amount of money to influence the system, he said.
In the 2017 Goa Assembly polls, the Congress had won the highest 17 seats in the 40-member House, restricting the main opponent BJP to 13. But, the saffron party moved swiftly to ally with regional parties and came to power. The Congress had accused the BJP of "stealing" the mandate, a charge the saffron party rejected.
Mr Gandhi's Goa visit comes days after Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee started her three-day visit to campaign for her party in the state.