New Delhi: To dispel a perception that Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi’s absence from the party’s much publicised zameen wapasi andolan had played a dampener, a bevy of Congress leaders turned up at Jantar Mantar here on Wednesday to protest against the government’s land acquisition Ordinance. Party leaders highlighted it was Rahul Gandhi who had championed the cause of farmers, bringing in the equitable land acquisition Bill of 2013.
The presence of Deepinder Hooda, Congress member of Parliament from Rohtak, ensured hordes of farmers from his state were present at the protest. Terming the government “anti-farmer”, Hooda accused it of not raising the minimum support price of crops, making urea inaccessible to farmers and divesting the farmer’s right to his land by dropping the consent clause from the amended land Bill.
The party clarified the land Bill was a Congress creation and the agitation to protect it from an attack was its preserve. Those such as social activist Anna Hazare or political opponent Shiv Sena, who had spoken out against the government’s land ordinance, “are welcome as long as they join us”, Hooda said.
In a way, Wednesday’s protest brought to the fore differences between young Congress leaders, considered close to Rahul Gandhi, and the old guard. While party seniors Kamal Nath and Ambika Soni gave bytes to reporters in Parliament on the land ordinance’s ‘anti-farmer’ nature, those present at the protest, held only a stone’s throw away, included Hooda, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Ahmed Patel, Jairam Ramesh, Digvijay Singh, P L Punia, Ajay Maken, all considered close to Rahul.
Addressing farmers and Congress workers, former Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia termed the scrapping of the social impact assessment and the 70 per cent farmer consent clause in the ordinance as “anti-farmer”. Rajasthan Congress Pradesh Party chief Sachin Pilot, who wasn’t able to make it to the event, told Business Standard he had to take up the cudgels for the party in that state. The Rajasthan Congress unit is set to hold protests on the government’s land ordinance.
Jairam Ramesh, who has been tasked with spearheading the party’s activities on the land Bill, said the agitation was aimed at getting back land from a “gharwapasi” government. He added the government was trying to overturn a Bill that was introduced after hours of consultation and deliberations with stakeholders. Ahmed Patel said the party would take its agitation to every village and hamlet of the country.
Meanwhile, a top police officer in Uttarakhand said on Wednesday, the Congress vice-president was not in the state. This comes amid speculations that Rahul Gandhi, who is on a sabbatical, was in the hill state.