Fifth Column: Lies and more lieshttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/fifth-column-lies-and-more-lies/

Fifth Column: Lies and more lies

Rahul Gandhi's lies are serious and so must be analysed seriously.

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If the charge of being ‘anti-farmer’ can be made against any single political party then it has to be the party that Rahul inherited from his family.

If Rahul Gandhi’s lies were less serious they would have been a source of weeks of amusement in this column. But, they are serious and so must be analysed seriously. So we need to know why he lied in Parliament and at his homecoming rally by saying that Narendra Modi ‘borrowed’ money from big businessmen and was trying to repay this debt by taking away the land of poor farmers. He said this was the only reason why the Prime Minister brought an ordinance to make changes in his Mummy’s government’s land acquisition law. This is so dangerously untrue that I expected political pundits to refute it immediately. It continues to puzzle me that this did not happen.

It puzzles me even more that the treasury benches in the Lok Sabha remained silent when the Congress party’s future leader announced that the Prime Minister was trying to reserve the Internet for big businessmen. This was his ‘intervention’ on the issue of net neutrality. But since the Modi government has been so hopeless in explaining the reasons why the land law needs amendment, it should not surprise us that Rahul is getting away with repeating his most serious lie of all. This is that the Modi government is ‘anti-farmer.’ That it is a ‘suit-boot ki sarkar’.

If the charge of being ‘anti-farmer’ can be made against any single political party then it has to be the party that Rahul inherited from his family. For decades, the Congress party has in the name of socialism given farmers dole and handouts instead of irrigation, roads, markets and financial services. This is why 99 per cent of Indian farmers live in desperate poverty. So desperate that one failed crop can destroy whole families. So desperate that the average Indian farmer often makes less money in a year than beggars make in the streets of Mumbai. The truth is that there are no jobs left to give in the villages and this is why millions of small farmers migrate to cities every year in search of work. Often because of their lack of skills they end up as domestic servants and menial labourers. MNREGA was meant to have stopped this. It has not.

Experts estimate that by the middle of this century more than 400 million rural Indians will migrate to the cities. They would not be doing this if life in rural India were as salubrious as Rahul claims it was, till 10 months ago when that uppity, suited and booted ‘chaiwallah’ from Gujarat dared to become prime minister. The distress we see in farming communities across India at the moment cannot be blamed on Modi’s policies and yet none of his ministers has been able to refute this lie effectively. Venkaiah Naidu made a valiant effort in the Lok Sabha by pointing out to Rahul that the poverty of rural India could not have been created in 10 months. But he sounded defensive.

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Other ministers have sounded just as defensive so it is becoming increasingly hard to remember that Modi has a full majority in the Lok Sabha. This should be more than enough political capital to at least refute Rahul’s lies. This has not happened. So the Congress heir-apparent has gone almost unchallenged on his charge that the Prime Minister is trying to acquire farmers’ land to pay his debt to big business.

The irony of the ‘pro-corporate’ charge is that the Modi government has done very little so far to make India business-friendly. The appalling retroactive tax that should have been thrown out in the Modi government’s first budget is still with us. Since foreign companies are being regularly sent lists of heavy new ‘retroactive’ taxes, why should they put more money into India? Indian corporations continue to be in bad shape on account of unchanged bad policies that came as a ‘legacy’ from Rahul’s Mummyji. And, smaller businessmen say without hesitation that for them there has been no sign of ‘parivartan’ at all.

On top of everything middle-class taxpayers are now likely to also become victims of tax inspectors. If newspaper reports are accurate, those of us who pay tax will have to give details of every foreign trip we make and tax hounds will follow us around if we buy something for more than Rs 1 lakh. So Rahul is telling a big, fat lie when he charges Modi with being the leader of ‘those who drive around in big cars’. This from a man who came home last week in a cavalcade of very big foreign cars. So he needs to speak carefully here. But, why should he not say what he likes since nobody takes him on? This could be because the Prime Minister, like many other people, finds it hard to take Rahul baba seriously. Big mistake. Serious charges cannot remain unanswered.

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh