Congress top brass today launched an all-out attack on the government with Rahul Gandhi declaring that he would be in the vanguard against any move to hurt farmers’ interests and accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of bringing the land bill to “pay back huge loans” taken from corporates in the Lok Sabha polls.
While Sonia Gandhi accused the government of rubbing salt on the wounds of the farmers hit hard by unseasonal rains and hailstorm, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the new land bill was nothing but an attempt to weaken the 2013 Act that was aimed at empowering the farmers.
At a well-attended rally here which was seen as a platform to project Rahul, the Congress leadership vowed to fight tooth and nail the attempts by the Modi dispensation to weaken the farmers and benefit the “industrialists”.
The thrust of Sonia, Rahul as also Manmohan Singh was that Modi led people, including farmers, up the garden path before last year’s polls and now was bringing anti-farmers policies.
“Enough is enough,” said Sonia Gandhi.
Rahul, who returned to public life after a two-month absence, slammed Modi for his comments during the just-concluded foreign visit in which he had talked about “cleaning up the mess”, saying the remarks on foreign soil against previous governments does not behove the post of Prime Minister.
“I will tell you how Modi ji won the election. He took loans of thousands of crores from big industrialists from which his marketing was done,” Rahul said at the farmers’ rally at Ramlila ground here.
“How will he pay back that loan now? He will do it by giving your land to those top industrialists. He wants to weaken the farmers, then snach their land and give it to his industrialist friends,” he said.
The Congress Vice President said that through the Gujarat model, Modi showed that he can snatch the land of farmers quite easily and “convinced the industrialists that he can do the same in the whole country”.
“This is Modi’s model — weaken the foundation, then attach a ladder to the building, paint it bright and show to the world that the building is shining when in fact it has become hollow,” he said.
The rally organised by the party was significant as it came on the eve of the second phase of the Budget session of Parliament, which is expected to be stormy affair in the wake of growing confrontation over the land bill issue.
Sonia Gandhi recalled that leaders of as many as 14 opposition parties had marched under her leadership to the Rashtrapati Bhavan in the first phase of the Budget session to protest against the controversial bill.
Describing land as “gold”, Rahul said, “Its price will substantially rise in 15-20 years. It will be higher than the price of gold… Congress will firmly stand with farmers and workers. Wherever their land is being snatched, our workers and leaders will be there in the fight. I will also stand along with them.”
Giving an assurance farmers, he said, “I will stand with you. Development is required but farmers are also needed. We do not want an India, where select few people get everything and farmers get nothing. Congress will fight for you.”
He recalled that during a meeting with the youth from Niyamgiri hills of Odisha where an industrial project was proposed to be set up, he said he was told that “if the land is given to Vedanta, 400 youth will become Naxalites. Like we won in Niyamgiri (in Odisha) and like we brought the land bill in 2013, we will win this battle too also.”
He also cited the example of his visit to Australia where he saw that the 300 people, whose land was taken for diamond mine, had turned into mere labourers in spite of the fact that the mine produces almost 25 per cent of the diamonds in the world.
Questioning the “intention” behind bringing changes in the Land Bill, the Congress Vice-President said the real reason for the amendments is to create a land bank for the industrialists.
He said the much-talked about ‘Make-in-India programme was unlikely to succeed but the government would take away land from the farmers under its pretext.
“They have removed the five clauses because they want to give their land to the rich. No Make-in-India is going to happen because the Make-in-India (programme) is not going to be successful. Your land will be snatched and you will not even get employment,” the Congress Vice-President said.
“Modi ji said, he has to clean the mess of the last 50 years. I was saddened. He does not understand the strength of the poor, their toil and their sweat. Such statements on foreign soil do not behove Modi nor the post of the Prime Minister,” he said.
Alleging that Modi government made minimal increase in the Minimum Support Price and did away with bonus on farmers’ crops, the Congress President said that there is a “huge gap between the words and the deeds” of the Prime Minister and the BJP. She said “enough is enough”.
Lashing out at the Centre over the issue of farmer’s suicide, she said the farmers are getting caught in debt-trap despite the BJP’s promise that not a single farmer would commit suicide.
“Where have those people disappeared who used to make tall promises during elections that there would not be a single suicide by a farmer and the problems posed by money lender would be taken care of.
“Where have those people disappeared who used to make tall promises during elections that there would not be a single suicide by a farmer and the problems of posed by money lender would be taken care of,” she asked.
She said although the party was not in power, there will be no let-up in the effort to raise the voice of the farmers.
“The message should go out from this rally that the farmer’s voice was not supressed and will be not be allowed to supress.
“We are not going to allow the interests of farmers and labour to be crushed in this manner,” she said as she attacked Modi saying that people of the country have understood his “hollow promises” and real “design”.
She also accused the Modi dispensation of giving a unfair deal to the farmers by “meagre” compensation to those hit by unseasonal rains and not offering good price for their crops.
Gandhi alleged that while the government was not procuring wheat from farmers at a good price, it was importing the food-grain at a “record level” from Australia and America.
“The prices for cotton is 25 per cent less while for the potatoes it is 80 per cent less. There is shortage of urea which is leading to black-marketing at a large scale,” she said.
“After the rail and union budget, the prices of fertilisers have shot up. All this is leading to farmers getting caught in a debt-trap,” she said.
“The attitude is totally anti-farmer. So, that is why we have gathered here on this historic Ramlila Ground and we will get new energy from here.
The message should go out from this rally that the farmer’s voice was not supressed and will be not be allowed to supress,” she said.
Manmohan Singh said Rahul Gandhi was ‘jawan dillon ki dhadkan’ (heart-throb of the youth).
Down in the dumps after its worst-ever debacle in the 2014 general elections, where it reached its nadir to a mere 44 seats in the Lok Sabha, Congress senses a big opportunity for agitational politics after the NDA brought the land ordinance in December last year effecting key changes in the earlier bill.