Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi adopted a pro-poor stand to turn up the heat on the NDA government on Sunday, saying his party’s fight against a controversial land bill was aimed at protecting the “dignity and future” of India's farmers.
“This is not a fight for farms, this is not a fight for land...this is a battle for farmers' hearts," he told a “Kisan Mazdoor Samman Rally” at Ramlila Ground in Delhi.
The Congress organised the rally to greet farmers and party workers for "forcing" Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to withdraw the "draconian" land ordinance.
“A farmer once told me, Rahulji, we have two mothers. Our real mother and the land we plant our crops in," the Congress leader said, adding land acquisition was an emotional issue for the agrarian community.
"Our MPs in Lok Sabha fought for you (farmers) with determination," Rahul told the gathering, highlighting efforts by the opposition party to thwart the land bill.
The land ordinance was first promulgated in December 2014 amid fierce protests by the opposition, which said it was against the interest of farmers. The NDA government promulgated the ordinance thrice but finally had to allow it to lapse on August 31 as it faced opposition from not only rivals but also allies and RSS affiliates.
The Congress kept up pressure on the government, and the party's continuous protests disrupted the monsoon session of Parliament at a time when the government had lined up key reform bills, including the GST bill.
A day after Rahul kicked off the Congress' election campaign in poll-bound Bihar with a "suit-boot ki sarkar (read pro-corporate)" jibe at Modi, he reiterated the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) dispensation at the Centre is elitist and that the Prime Minister was always surrounded by bureaucrats or businessmen.
Taking a dig at the NDA government's “Make in India” initiative, Rahul said it has no place for farmers and labourers.
"This is not 'Make in India', this is Modiji's 'Take in India'," he said, in an apparent reference to an acquisition clause in the contentious land bill.
Rahul also accused the government of weakening schemes introduced in the "interest of the people” by the previous Congress-led UPA regime, such as the food security act and NREGA.
After his return from a nearly two-month political sabbatical on April 16, Rahul has been unsparing in his attacks on Modi and his government on issues concerning farmers, landless labourers, netizens, middle-class home buyers, fishermen, former military personnel, Dalits and sanitation workers.
At Sunday's rally, top Congress leaders such as Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh were present.
"Farmers are going through difficult times ever since this government came to power. Their financial condition is getting worse day by day," said Sonia, the party president and Rahul's mother.
"If they (government) don't listen to your voice, the Congress will definitely create hindrance in their path," Sonia said.