Congress' Rahul Gandhi slams ‘intent, content’ of farm laws
- Gandhi also tweaked India’s once-ubiquitous family planning slogan to tell an obstreperous Lok Sabha: “This government is for ‘Hum do hamare do’.” He did not name anyone, but kept implying through the speech that the country was being run by, and for, four people.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday used his turn in the discussion on the Union budget to lash out at three contentious farm laws enacted by the Narendra Modi government, and laid out what he described as problematic “content” and dubious “intent” behind the three pieces of legislation.
Gandhi also tweaked India’s once-ubiquitous family planning slogan to tell an obstreperous Lok Sabha: “This government is for ‘Hum do hamare do’.” He did not name anyone, but kept implying through the speech that the country was being run by, and for, four people.
“Earlier the family planning slogan was ‘Hum do hamare do’. Just like corona, this slogan has come in a different form. Today, the country is run by four people. This government is for ‘Hum do hamare do,” he said amid protests and taunts from the treasury benches.
The BJP hit back through junior finance minister Anurag Thakur, who, in a detailed rebuttal, said: “Hum do hamare Do” refers to “Didi, brother-in-law, and family.” He did not take any names either.
Though Gandhi participated in the debate on the general budget, he spoke only on farmers’ issues. He ignored the demands of BJP ministers and the Speaker’s request to stick to the topic — first saying he would get to it, then saying he was “laying the foundation”, and finally that will not say anything on the budget since a separate discussion on farm issues was not allowed by the government despite demands by the Opposition. He also led several Opposition MPs into observing a short silence to honour the farmers who died during the ongoing protest on the entry points to the Capital since November 26.
Thakur later attacked Gandhi for not speaking about the budget. “This was quite surprising since the Opposition wanted Parliament to convene to discuss the economic situation arising due to Covid-19, and the measures adopted by the government in its budget.” He also quipped, “I can understand that the member may not have prepared his budget speech. He wasn’t here for other speeches.”
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that the Opposition did not speak about the “intent” and “content” of the three farm bills during the debate on the President’s speech.
Gandhi, by way of response , said on Thursday that he will “make the PM happy” by doing so. Gandhi said that the first law’s content “is that anyone can buy unlimited amount of foodgrain anywhere, so that it will finish the mandis”; the second law’s content “is to end Essential Commodities Act to allow unlimited hoarding in the country”; and the and the third law’s content is that “if a farmer does not get the price of his produce from a big industrialist, he cannot go to court”.
Gandhi, who alleged that crony capitalism exists in the National Democratic Alliance regime, said the intent of the first legislation is “one of the two biggest friends” will be given “the right to sell India’s entire food grain, vegetables and fruits” and it will result in “losses for street hawkers, small traders and millions who work in mandis”.
The intent of the second law, he said, was to “help the second friend to create monopoly in food grain, fruits and vegetables storage” who already “keeps 40% of India’s food grain in his storage”.
Gandhi also satirically said the PM’s assurance that the new farm laws were “optional” was right. “He has given three options: hunger, unemployment, suicide.”
To be sure, even in the run up to both 2014 and 2019 national elections, Gandhi alleged that the NDA works for a few friendly industrialists. Recently, the Wayanad MP alleged that the PM is trying to turn India into monopolies run by a handful of people.
Gandhi also linked the farm laws with demonetisation and GST (he described it as “Gabbar Singh Tax”) and alleged the government’s idea was to “take money from poor people, farmers and workers” to put them in the pockets of some people.
Lending support to farm protests, Gandhi said: “What the country is witnessing is not a farmers’ movement, it is a national movement. The country will rise against ‘Hum do hamare do’. You think you can buy farmers, workers and small traders. You take it from me in writing,farmers will not budge an inch. Farmers traders, workers will remove you. You have to take back the law.”
Thakur, when he spoke, hit back by saying that the Congress party had merely done sloganeering for the poor for 70 years, without giving them anything. “Some raised slogans of Garibi Hatao (remove poverty); five generations ruled the country, but poverty did not go. But the son of a poor man (Modi) lifted many out of poverty. Some people only make electoral promises and do not deliver,” he said.