In a clear move to counter the National Democratic Alliance's (NDA) show of strength in Ludhiana on Sunday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Monday addressed an election rally in Amritsar, during which they said the BJP and the Akalis ruling the state had "done nothing for farmers".
Campaigning for Congress candidate Om Prakash Soni against Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) cricketer-turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu in this Sikh holy city, Manmohan Singh and Gandhi said the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has made farmers' welfare its main focus for the last five years.
"The BJP and Akalis have done nothing for the farmers at all. Everyday, they are giving false advertisements claiming various things. We have tried to serve the country. We have done a number of things for farmers and the poor of this country," Manmohan Singh said on the final day of campaign for the fifth and last phase of the Lok Sabha polls.
He listed the increases brought about by the central government in minimum support prices of various products.
The prime minister said: "Agriculture has been our main focus in the last five years." "We have always tried to ensure that farmers are the main beneficiaries of the country's progress."
Gandhi also took the NDA to task for not doing anything for farmers, whom he described as the "backbone of the country". "This government (of Manmohan Singh) waived loans of farmers worth Rs 70,000 crore (Rs 700 billion). It launched the biggest employment generation scheme (NREGS) in the world," Gandhi said.
He alleged that some opposition leaders "like Chandrababu Naidu" (of the Telugu Desam Party) had said "farmers are not necessary", but "we do not think this way". Gandhi once again took on the India Shining campaign slogan used by the NDA during the 2004 campaign and told his audience: "You gave a reply by making Manmohan Singhji the prime minister. He is the pride of Punjab and the pride of India."
Gandhi also questioned why BJP leaders were not visiting the homes of poor people in the country. This was the first joint rally of the prime minister and Rahul Gandhi during the five phase election.