Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Sunday used the “historic” farm loan waiver to set the party on track for the crucial round of assembly elections later this year, and a possible early general election. She launched a blistering attack on the previous NDA regime for ignoring farmers and its inept handling of terror attacks.
Sonia and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh steered clear of the India-US nuclear deal, which threatens the existence of the government in the wake of a fresh threat by the Left. Both instead concentrated on the pro-people measures taken by their regime in their speeches, at a well-attended farmers rally in the Capital.
Saying the waiver decision would benefit four crore farmers, Singh promised to implement it completely by June this year, without laxity. “I want to assure you the welfare of farmers, the poor and aam admi is most important for our government.”
In her first public reaction on the issue, Sonia took on the BJP, saying the party had done nothing for farmers during its rule and was now shedding “crocodile tears”. “What did they do during their tenure? They are now criticising our government… It is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. The only reason for farmers’ miseries is their neglect during the NDA regime,” she told supporters drawn mainly from neighbouring states. The rally, the first in a series to be held across the country, is aimed at rebuilding and consolidating Congress support among farmers and marginalised groups.
Sonia also slammed BJP prime ministerial candidate LK Advani for alleging the government was soft on terrorism. “Their leader in Lok Sabha criticised our prime minister, but when he was home minister, attacks took place on the Raghunath and Akshardham temples and Parliament, and militants were taken as guests to Kandahar,” she said.
On the attacks on north Indians in Maharasthra, Sonia said no leniency should be shown to those who discriminate on regional and religious lines. “Citizens of the country have a right to stay in any part. To fight terrorism and for development of the country, unity and integrity are the basic conditions.”
Earlier, the PM used the occasion to further articulate his views, which he had expressed in Parliament while replying to the motion of thanks on the President's address. “Look at our work and compare it with the NDA government, which did not do anything for farmers. On the contrary, it tried to suppress farmers’ income. I can say with pride that we have given a new direction to the farming sector,” he said. On the BJP’s ‘India Shining’ campaign of 2004, he said: “Lakhs of tonnes of wheat and rice were exported at a loss to farmers. It is a fact they named their campaign India Shining when a majority of the country’s farmers were facing huge problems.”