Congress, BJP and other opposition parties were on Thursday on a warpath on land acquisition issue with Mayawati Government which cracked down on protesters and took into custody several leaders, a day after arrest of Rahul Gandhi in Greater Noida.
Senior BJP leaders Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan, UPCC president Rita Bahuguna Joshi and Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait along with their supporters were detained by UP Police while they were agitating in support of farmers of Greater Noida who are seeking more compensation from the state government for their acquired land.
Joshi and scores of Congress leaders, including legislators, and workers were baton-charged and detained in Lucknow and elsewhere during a statewide 'chakka jam' protest by the party against the arrest of Gandhi in Bhatta Parsaul last night and in support of farmers' demands in western UP.
Similar protests by Congress were held in other parts of the state including Rae Bareli, Ghaziabad, Jhansi, Meerut, Allahabad and Sitapur districts while security was stepped up in Greater Noida with the administration re-clamping prohibitory orders. While the Centre criticised the handling of protests by UP government, the Congress launched a tirade against Mayawati with senior leader Digvijay Singh, who was detained along with Gandhi, calling her a "dictator" and demanded a judicial inquiry into alleged police brutalities in Bhatta Parsaul region.
Union Minister Salman Khurshid claimed Mayawati was "jittery and losing sleep" over the tremendous support and respect Gandhi was getting both inside and outside party. Home Minister P Chidambaram said law and order in Uttar Pradesh is not a "happy situation" as farmers were protesting in many villages on the land acquisition issue and criticised the way Mayawati was handling the protests.
But he ruled out sending a central team to assess the situation there in view of recent clashes in Greater Noida where two farmers and as many policemen were killed.
The arrest of Rajnath Singh, who sat on a fast in support of the farmers' stir, along with Jaitley and Naqvi in Ghaziabad evoked a strong reaction from BJP which said that UP was under "dictatorship", vowed to continue its protest irrespective of "repression" and demanded CM's resignation.
Hitting back at the opposition, Mayawati said the clashes in Greater Noida had nothing to do with the issue of land compensation and accused the Congress, BJP and other parties of attempting to disturb law and order by spreading "rumours" while dubbing Gandhi's dharna as "mean theatrics". "By spreading lies and rumours, opposition parties are attempting to disturb law and order situation by misleading people and Bhatta Parsaul incident is an example of their dirty politics," Mayawati told reporters in Lucknow.
She accused the Centre of not providing due compensation to farmers for Rae Bareli rail coach factory land and said Gandhi should have been standing with them and not in Noida. Congress spokesperson Akhilesh Pratap Singh rejected the charge and said the land acquired for a railway project is in public interest and "not for private builders and developers as was being done by Mayawati government."