The Opposition is determined to defeat the government's controversial land acquisition bill, Congress president Sonia Gandhi declared on Tuesday after leading leaders of 14 political parties in a protest march to the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Gandhi pledged to continue their "do or die" battle against the bill.
In the first major display of opposition unity after the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Gandhi told the media that they had urged President Pranab Mukherjee not to let the government go ahead with the bill, saying it would badly hurt the interests of farmers.
Gandhi said that "democratic, secular and forward looking forces are determined to defeat the (Narendra) Modi government's designs" to promote corporate interests at the cost of farmers by taking away their land.
The protest that Gandhi led drew members of 14 political parties, including her own Congress, Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal-United, Janata Dal-Secular, the DMK, the Communists, Trinamool Congress and Nationalist Congress Party.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh also joined the protest.
JD-U leader Sharad Yadav said Tuesday's protest had brought together all the opposition forces that had got scattered since the Lok Sabha election catapulted the Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party to power.
"This is a land of farmers. It is the farmers who have made this country self-sufficient in food. To snatch their land is a sin," he said.
"This is the beginning of a major battle that will be waged in every nook and corner of the country," he said.
The protesting MPs handed over a joint memorandum to the President, outlining their points of disagreement with the government on the land bill.
"We are here to oppose Modi govt's proposal on Land Bill 2013 and want President Pranab Mukherjee to intervene in the matter," Gandhi said after meeting the President.
Earlier, the Delhi Police had denied permission for the march and put up barricades around Parliament, but later relented after the home ministry stepped in.
Sonia Gandhi leads anti-land bill march to Rashtrapati Bhawan
This after JD(U) leader Yadav, who was coordinating the protest march, urged the government not to prevent the opposition from holding a protest.
The Congress and other opposition parties call the present land bill 'anti-farmer' and insist that is should be send to parliamentary committee for review.
A large contingent of security personnel drawn from the Delhi Police and paramilitary forces was deployed in the area in riot gear. Barricades were set up and water cannons were also placed on the route leading from Parliament to the President's House.
Questioned over the issue, Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi said, "If there is a demonstration, we prohibit it. But if somebody walks why would we stop them?"