Loan waiver, MNREGA, food security, Niyamgiri: Yes, Rahul Gandhi is backhttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/live-congress-all-set-to-play-its-farmer-card-at-kisan-rally/

Loan waiver, MNREGA, food security, Niyamgiri: Yes, Rahul Gandhi is back

Congress leadership addresses the farmers at Ramlila Maidan on Sunday, in their mega Kisan rally.

Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh
Rahul with Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh at the Kisan Rally at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi on Sunday. (Source: Express photo by Oinam Anand)

Nearly two months of “introspection” later, Rahul Gandhi returned to the stage on Sunday with an old narrative and older theme.

The Ramlila Maidan rally here was billed as Rahul’s big re-launch moment. He was aggressive, topical and attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi repeatedly. But if the “leave of absence” was to think of a new way ahead post electoral drubbing, he didn’t offer any to the massive crowd that the Congress had managed to gather.

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The vice-president largely reiterated what he has been saying — that the UPA I’s farm loan waiver had saved the farmers, that it had made substantial hikes in minimum support prices, that the MNREGA had helped rural labourers, that UPA I had got poor food security, and how he had himself intervened to thwart land acquisition in Niyamgiri and Bhatta-Parsaul.

Making it clear that the Congress would remain left of centre, despite it paying no poll dividends for the party so far, Rahul called Modi a “friend” of big capitalists and pro-corporate, and asserted he would fight all attempts to forcibly acquire farm land. “Whatever we did was for the weak and the poor.”

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Congress president Sonia Gandhi said Modi had led people, including farmers, up the garden path before the polls and was bringing anti-farmer policies now. “Enough is enough… We need to tell the Modi government that farmers, labourers and poor have seen through its hollow promises and ploys,” she said.

What was clearer from Sunday’s rally was that the Congress will now target Modi personally. Both Rahul and Sonia repeatedly used the phrase “Modi sarkar” instead of the BJP government in their speeches.

“Wherever there is an attempt to snatch your land, you will find the Congress and its leaders there. You will find me there… This country is of farmers and labourers. Of course, development is needed. There is a need for business, Make in India, manufacturing, industrial corridors… but farmers are also needed. The education of their children is also important. Their future is also important. We don’t want an India where only a handful get everything, fly in aeroplanes and travel in big cars and our farmers are turned into labourers,” Rahul said.

The Congress leader pointed out that the BJP had supported the land acquisition Bill brought by the UPA government in 2013. “Their leaders thumped on the desks when the Bill was passed. What has changed between then and now? Why are they doing it? That is the question… Why is the BJP not listening to the farmers or the poor?… What is their thinking?”

Telling farmers that their land is “gold” — “it will fetch the price of gold in 10-15 years” — Rahul added, “I will tell you how Modi won the elections. He took thousands of crores of rupees as loan from big capitalists. He used it for marketing, Gujarat-model campaigning and advertisements in television channels. How will he repay it? He will pay it back by giving away your land to those capitalists. That is why he wants to weaken the land Act and weaken the farmer.”

The Prime Minister, he alleged, wants to ensure that “farmers don’t get water for irrigation, don’t get fertilisers…. weaken the farmers and then snatch their land and give it to his industrialist friends”.

“That is the Gujarat model. He showed industrialists how easily land can be snatched from farmers in Gujarat. He told those capitalists that if you make me the Prime Minister, I will do what I did in Gujarat in the whole of India,” Rahul said.

“The Modi model is to 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.”

Referring to the dilution in the land acquisition Act regarding return of unutilised land, he said, “Modi wants to make a land bank and give it to the rich. There will be no Make in India. He wants to weaken you.”

Rahul also attacked Modi for saying he was cleaning up the mess left behind by his predecessors. “He is the Prime Minister of India. I felt sad. He does not understand the strength of the Indian people. They toiled the last 60 years to make India what it is today. The word he used on a foreign soil about India does not behove Modi or the post of the Prime Minister,” he said.

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Sonia too said the land acquisition Act was being amended to benefit private companies. There is “a huge gap between the words and deeds” of the Prime Minister and BJP. “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 moneylenders would be taken care of?” she asked, calling the Modi government anti-farmer and anti-poor.

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