Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi met farmers on Saturday to hear their views on changes being brought in the UPA's land law by the Narendra Modi government.
He interacted with delegation of farmers from UP, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab at his office.
Rahul, who returned on Thursday after his much talked about 57-day sabbatical, is meeting with farmers a day before the Congress' 'Kisan-Khet Mazdoor' rally on Sunday to galvanise protests against the NDA's land acquisition law.
Despite the backlash on his absence during the crucial Parliament session and a missed chance in participating in the opposition's movements against the proposed land acquisition bill, Rahul skipped a crucial party meeting on Friday focussed on a discussion on farmers' problems - a subject he will broach upon at the rally on Sunday.
"We are the foot soldiers, we all work under the directives and directions of the Congress leadership, including Rahul Gandhi," NDTV quoted senior leader Digvijaya Singh as saying.
Sarcasm and Jokes
The Congress vice-president's return on Thursday after his almost 2-month unexplained sabbatical ended days of intense speculation but gave a boost to another round of political debate and jokes at his expense.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) greeted Gandhi's return with sarcasm and asked him to tell the people whether he wanted to continue in politics.
"He is confused. He does not know what he wants to do with his life, whether he wants to continue in politics," said BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra.
Moments after news of his return, Twitter exploded with #RahulReturns as the top trending topic with the Twitterati coming up with snide tweets throughout the day.
"Will #RahulGandhi be able to counter 56-inch chest after 56 day sabbatical?? #RahulReturns," wrote @raydeep.
"All I'm saying is he's been relaunched so many times, this better be a 13 Inch Gold, Rahul Gandhi Air with Retina Display," posted @thevirdas.
"Rahul Gandhi just got himself transferred from IIN, Wilderness to IIN, Congress... which is actually the same thing," said @coolfunnytshirt.
Some even compared his "leave of absence" to Lord Rama's 14-year exile saying "I still remember the day when Ram, Lakshman and Sita came back to Ayodhya after 14 years of Vanvaas. Feels the same today. #RahulReturns."
Paving the way for mega rally
Sources said Rahul, accompanied by some senior Congress leaders including Jairam Ramesh and Singh, will meet members of various farmer organisations from states like Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
The delegation will also include farmers from Bhatta Parsaul village from where Rahul had launched a 'padyatra' in 2011 against forcible acquisition of farmers' land, a protest that had culminated in the passage of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
The party has already made it clear that the Congress vice-president will address the Sunday rally of farmers along with party president Sonia Gandhi.
Rahul's return will boost the Congress' rally in the Capital against the land ordinance which has been rejected by the opposition as ''anti-farmer and anti-poor.''
The rally is also being seen as a sort of a comeback vehicle for Rahul and a show of strength by the party, which has been strongly opposing changes in the original act.
It is among the several steps the Congress, along with other opposition parties, is taking to lodge its protest against the government's move, both inside and outside Parliament.
The rally also assumes significance as it is being held just before the second phase of the Budget session of Parliament and at a time when the government has re-promulgated the land acquisition ordinance.
Top Congress leaders, including Sonia, will use the demonstration to attack the government over land reforms that have been derided as "anti-farmer" by political opponents, activists, and farmers' organisations.
In the budget session of Parliament, the Congress had led the opposition's campaign against the government's plans to make land
acquisition easier for industrial and key infrastructure projects, which are a major part of the Prime Minister's economic reform agenda.
The party had earlier staged two demonstrations at Jantar Mantar and topped it with an opposition march from Parliament to Rashtrapati Bhavan and submitted a memorandum against the bill.
The Congress party president had led the march but a section of the Congress leaders felt that Rahul's presence would have further
bolstered the party's movement on the land bill.
Preparations for the rally
Congress is hoping to rally people from various parts of the country with the 'Chalo Dilli Chale' slogan which will be seen on hoardings and heard on FM radio channels on which it has booked spots.
A 17-coach 'Kisan Express' train carrying farmers will leave from Jaipur and arrive at Delhi after six stops on the rally day.
AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh, who is convenor of the committee to chalk out plans for organising the rally, on Friday huddled with AICC secretaries to assess the preparations for the rally. State leaders have been directed to ensure that the rally has full attendance.
Rahul will also be visiting his parliamentary constituency Amethi after the April 19 rally.
Sources in the party maintain that a clarity will soon emerge on decisions, which have been pending for some time like holding a meeting of the Congress Working Committee and AICC meeting, where a number of key decisions are to be taken.
(With inputs from PTI)
Video: Rahul Gandhi meets farmers in Delhi ahead of 'Kisan-Khet Mazdoor' rally