Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday called the NYAY scheme a surgical strike on poverty and asserted that the proposed minimum income guarantee programme was not populist but based on sound economics. Gandhi also sought to allay apprehensions of the middle class saying he guaranteed that the salaried people will not have to pay a single paisa from their pockets to fund the Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) scheme.

Addressing a rally in the north Bihar town of Samastipur where he shared the stage, for the first time after general elections were announced, with RJD heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav, Gandhi also deplored the insulting treatment meted out to Lalu Prasad, the jailed supremo of his alliance partner and warned the BJP-led coalition of a backlash in the polls.

Former state minister Ashok Ram of Congress is pitted against Ramchandra Paswan, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s brother, at Samastipur (SC, reserved seat).

Commencing his nearly 25-minute-long speech with an apology for turning up late because of a snag in his aircraft, Gandhi greeted the crowds with Ki haal chaal chhe (how are you) in the local Maithili dialect and went on to add with a smirk has not Modi looted you a lot.

Lakhs of crores have been gifted to thieves like Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and Vijay Mallya by the chowkidar (watchman an epithet the Prime Minister uses for himself). Public money to the tune of 5.55 lakh crore has been siphoned off by 15 persons close to Modi, Gandhi alleged.

Bihar was promised a special package, besides there were promises of two crore jobs, Rs 15 lakh into the accounts of all poor, Gandhi recalled, adding “kuchh nahin sab jhootha hai, Narendra Modi ne loota hai, (all promises are proven false. Narendra Modi has robbed people of whatever they had)”.

Calling the NYAY programme proposed in his party’s manifesto a surgical strike on poverty, Gandhi declared the scheme will be entirely funded with the money that thieves like Anil Ambani plunder with Narendra Modi’s help.

This is sound economics too as the money thus given to the poor would boost the demand for consumer goods and thereby give an impetus to commerce and industries, Gandhi claimed.

The Congress president also mocked the prime minister for making military operations carried out after terror attacks in Uri and Pulwama a poll plank and quipped wherever he goes he gives discourses on the surgical strikes since he is left with nothing else.

“He carries teleprompter wherever he goes to deliver his speeches,” he said and turned towards the young RJD leader for a moment saying “Tejashwi ji, you too would have noticed the teleprompter.”

“He delivers his speeches from the text on the teleprompter and in the meantime keeps getting orders from above don’t talk about rozgar (employment). Do not mention the Rs 15 lakh you had promised to remit into accounts of every poor Indian. Do not, at any rate, mention the farmers. You may be booed. Keep harping on surgical strikes,” he said.

Reiterating that if voted to power, the Congress would ensure that no farmer was sent to jail for defaulting on loans, Gandhi said, “You (Modi) are welcome to help people like Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya flee the country after defaults, but we stand for the common people, farmers and the working class. And we would spend on their welfare twice the amount you have helped the 15 persons of your choice to pocket.”

The Congress president, who has been rankling the BJP with his slogan Chowkidar chor hai a jibe at Modi who prefers to call himself a watchman of the country – sought to electrify the crowds by making them chant the pungent one-liner a number of times.

Speaking about Lalu Prasad, who is serving sentences in fodder scam cases and was last week denied permission to meet Tejashwi his younger son Gandhi said, “Modi has been insulting Lalu ji and causing hurt to his family members and well-wishers like me. I wish to remind him from this land of Karpoori Thakur (OBC stalwart and former Bihar CM) the people of this state will make you pay the price in the elections.”

Gandhi also sought to underscore that all the constituents of the Grand Alliance in Bihar Congress, RJD, RLSP, HAM and VIP were part of a cohesive whole and urged voters to ensure the victory of Mahagathbandhan in all seats.

Earlier, Tejashwi Yadav, whose absence at Gandhi’s rallies in Bihar so far had led to many speculations, expressed solidarity with the Congress showering praise on former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and said she had led the nation to a triumphant war against Pakistan which led to the formation of Bangladesh. We do not need lessons in deshbhakti (patriotism) from BJP.