New Delhi: Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, back in action after a two-month sabbatical, on Sunday launched a scathing attack on the “anti-farmer and pro-industry” National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Narendra Modi. Addressing a rally of about 100,000 people, a majority of them farmers from neighbouring states, at the Ramlila Maidan here, Rahul tore into the “anti-farmer” land Bill of the Modi government.
He said the prime minister’s sole aim was to help his industrialist friends at the expense of the poor farmers. “Wherever in the country your lands are grabbed through this oppressive land Bill, the Congress will stand with you, I will fight for you.” Warning Prime Minister Modi, Congress President Sonia Gandhi said, “We might be out of power but we will not allow the farmers’ voices and rights getting suppressed.”
Incidentally, #KisaanVirodhiNarendraModi was trending on Twitter all through the morning.
Farmers from Bhatta Parsaul in Uttar Pradesh, whose rights Rahul had championed in 2013, were present. Rahul said Modi was dealing a double blow to farmers, already crippled by agricultural distress and crop loss. “I will tell you how Modiji won the elections. He took loans of thousands of crores from big industrialists and now he will pay back that loan by giving them your land.”
Questioning the “urgency” in bringing an ordinance in Parliament and the reason behind the turnaround in the BJP’s stand on the 2013 UPA land Bill, which was given shape after a two-year struggle, Rahul said the Modi government was misleading farmers with false promises of jobs and a better life through his ‘Make in India’ programme.
Without resorting to any of his usually abstruse metaphors, Rahul drove home dangers from the NDA’s land Bill, which was removed of its social impact assessment clause, as also consent of farmers and promise of getting a price that was four times the market rate, to the farmers. The UPA land Bill and policies were farmer-friendly reiterated Rahul. He said the UPA government had hiked the minimum support price of crops and waived farm loans worth Rs 70,000 crore.
Rahul said the Modi government was only working towards weakening the farmer doing nothing to compensate him for the crop loss due to unseasonal rain or making no effort to hike the MSP and doing little to bring down urea prices.
“Modiji goes abroad and says he has to clean the garbage of past 50 years, thereby also belittling your (farmer) contribution,” said Gandhi. In his 25-minute address, Rahul made it clear that “business and development are important but not a skewered one as symbolised in the Gujarat model”.
In a stern message to the Modi government, Sonia Gandhi said, “Enough is enough.” Accusing the government of putting “salt to open wounds” of farmers, already reeling under crop loss by bringing in the land ordinance, she said the Modi government stands exposed. “They are conspiring against you (farmers) and changing the 2013 land law to benefit private businesses.”
She said, “Kisaan na dara hai, na darega (Farmers aren’t scared).” She added the huge turnout at the rally had only strengthened the Congress’ resolve to further to carry on the agitation. “Farmers voices cannot be suppressed and we will not allow it to be silenced.”
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke about how the NDA government was attempting to weaken the 2013 land acquisition Act that was aimed at empowering farmers.
The recent bout of inclement weather, which has hit farmers in the entire northern belt of the country, has further worked to help the Congress whip up sentiments against the government and its “anti-farmer” policies. Several such affected farmers thronged the venue.
Yasin, a farmer from Udaipur district in Rajasthan, complained about the massive loss of wheat and mustard crops due to unseasonal rains.
Suresh, from Rohtak district in Haryana, said, “The whole crop is wasted, what to talk of compensation. Nobody from the state government has even done an initial survey. And now they are threatening to grab our land with such a Bill.”
Prakash Tiwari, a kisan leader who had brought along several women agricultural labourers to the rally, said hailstones had destroyed his entire fruit crop. What brought them here was the fear of losing the land.
Jarjum, a Mahila Congress leader from Arunachal Pradesh and a trade union leader, said there is subsistence agriculture in her state and they have not been affected by any freak weather. “However, the issue of land rights is a pan-India issue,” she said.
The aggressive posturing of the Congress portends a stormy Parliament session, which begins on Monday. The government is hell-bent to get the “amended” land Bill passed in the session.