After Kisan rally, Rahul Gandhi will now take out a Kisan Padyatra to reach out to farmers in the backdrop of the agrarian crisis.
As Congress is seeking to make land acquisition a major issue to arrest its sliding fortunes, Gandhi’s major public outreach plan is aimed at galvanizing the party cadres and broadening the party base among farming communities.
Party sources in the party said the Padyatra could begin either from Vidarbha in Maharasthra or some district including Medak from Telangana, the two regions, which have been in the news for farmer suicides.
Rahul Gandhi will be visiting a number of districts with farmer distress in Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Punjab and Telangana.
In Uttar Pradesh, Gandhi could tavel to Bundelkhand and Easter Uttar Pradesh.
While the Congress Vice President had in past also taken up the issue of Bundelkhand ensuring a package for the region during the UPA government’s region, Eastern Uttar Pradesh, another region of farmer distress is bordering Bihar where polls are scheduled later this year.
When contacted, AICC Communication Department in-charge Randeep Surjewala said,”Rahul ji will be taking Kisan Padyatra in days to come. He is going to visit all states, which have recorded farmer distress. Details of his programme are yet to be finalized.”
Gandhi’s march is being seen as an exercise to connect the party with grassroots at a time when it faces an uphill task of revival after its worst-ever debacle in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls in which its tally came down to a drastic 44 from 206 it had got in the 2009 general elections.
It’s woes did not end there as the defeat in Lok Sabha polls was followed in by a series of defeats in state elections.
Congress, which was ruling in Haryana and Rajasthan on its own and Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand in alliance, lost badly in assembly elections there in the last one year.
The party sees the momentum generated by opposition protests to NDA’s land bill and the agrarian crisis as an opportunity to broaden its base among the farming communities.
Senior party leader Jairam Ramesh had drawn parallel of the agitation on farmers’s issues with the historic Chikmaglur bye-elections, which had begun the Congress comeback.
Rahul had lauched a movement against forcible land acquistion from Bhatta Parasaul in Uttar Pradesh in 2011 that had culiminated in the passage of the UPA’s land bill in 2013, whose provisions have been changed by the NDA this time through an Ordinance.
Rahul had also launched an agitation against acquisition of land of tribals in Niyamagiri in Odisha.
His granmdother Indira Gandhi and father Rajiv Gandhi had also launched similar mass connect programmes when the Congress was in doldrums in 1977 and 1989 and it had paid rich dividends. The party hopes that the padyatra will connect masses with it once again.
The last such major padyatra was taken out by late Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajsekhara Reddy some twelve years back, which helped the Congress to win back the state then hit by an agrarian crisis.
Sharad Pawar had also taken out a ‘shetkari dindi’, a procession of farmers in parts of Maharashtra some 30 years back when he was in Opposition to focus on the problems facing the farmers.