The Congress launched a campaign against the Narendra Modi government’s land acquisition ordinance from the twin villages of Bhatta-Parsaul in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday in a bid to gather grassroots support and shore up its fortunes following a string of electoral defeats.
The move is symbolic as party vice-president Rahul Gandhi is set to return to this Greater Noida neighbourhood where he kicked off protests against farmland acquisition by the state’s BSP government in 2011 prompting the Congress-led Centre to pass a new Act that was repealed by the NDA’s ordinance last month.
“Rahul Gandhi will soon come to meet farmers in Bhatta-Parsaul and provide leadership to our campaign,” former environment minister Jairam Ramesh said in a meeting with farmers from both villages. “Congress workers are preparing ground for a big political campaign against the Modi government, which has taken an anti-farmer and labourer decision by repealing the 2013 land Act.”
Party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi dubbed the ordinance “land-snatching, land-grabbing” and alleged “it provides for corporates and takes away the heart and soul of the farmer-friendly law.”
The ordinance made significant changes to the UPA government’s Land Acquisition Act including removal of a consent clause for acquiring land for five areas — industrial corridors, PPP projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence.
While BJP-governed states welcomed the move, opposition parties staged protests, terming the ordinance “draconian”.
Congress has decided to hold rallies and agitations across the country, especially in places where land disputes are burning issues, to woo farmers and landholders, sources said.
UP Congress spokesperson Dhirendra Singh said Rahul Gandhi and other senior leaders are expected to pilot a bigger agitation against the Union government by the end of January.
Bhatta-Parsaul witnessed bloody clashes in 2011 over the land acquisition issue in which four people, including two policemen, were killed. Rahul Gandhi’s 19-hour sit-in turned the nondescript villages into political hotspots ahead of the 2012 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.
(With inputs from Aurangzeb Naqshbandi)