Will fight land Bill in states: Sonia
Ahead of the Bihar Assembly elections, the top Congress leadership today launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi accusing him of abandoning the cause of farmers to benefit industrialists and saying that the fight on the land Bill was not yet over.
Dedicating the recent withdrawal of the controversial land ordinance to farmers, Congress president Sonia Gandhi today cautioned them against the government’s attempts to push the Bill through state Assemblies. Both Sonia and her deputy Rahul Gandhi said the party was geared for a long fight on the Bill, “which PM Modi now wanted to enact in states”.
“The collective struggle of our hand (Congress symbol) and your plough forced PM Modi to withdraw the black land ordinance. But the battle on the land Bill is not yet over. Only its setting has changed from the Centre to states. PM was unsuccessful in passing the land Bill at the Centre and now wants states to pass it. We need to be alert lest your struggles come to a naught and you be divested of your land yet again,” Sonia said to a strong gathering of farmers participating in the Kisan Samman Rally at the National Capital’s Ramlila Ground. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, ex-Defence Minister AK Antony and former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda shared the stage with the Gandhis amid a galaxy of regional leaders, minus former Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh who skipped the event.
It was the same ground from where the Congress had kicked off its campaign against the land ordinance in April. Following three re-promulgations, PM Modi had allowed the ordinance to lapse -- the Opposition Congress had claimed the decision came following the “pressure” it had built on the government. Subsequently, the PM had, at a NITI Aayog meeting, said the states were free to enact their own land acquisition laws.
While Rahul used the occasion to mock Prime Minister’s Make in India campaign saying it was essentially “Take in India” as the Centre was eyeing farmers’ lands, Sonia delivered a power-packed speech hitting out at the government for calling the Congress an “impediment in the country’s growth”.
Sonia’s reference was to recent ministerial jibes at the Congress over its constant resistance to the pro-reform Goods and Services Tax Bill pending in Parliament.
“I feel like laughing and also feel pity at Prime Minister Modi’s charge that the Congress is a hurdle in the way of development. Did your ideological mentors ever participate in the freedom movement? Can those who sacrificed lives for Independence and then built a modern India ever be a hurdle in the way of development. But yes, if being a hurdle means protesting the model of development that benefits a small minority at the cost of majority, the Congress will continue to be an impediment in the path of PM Modi,” Sonia said, attacking the RSS, ruling BJP’s ideological mentor, and saying that the biggest challenge before the Congress was to fight “forces working to divide the country” in a bid to deflect attention from government’s failures on every front.
Eye on the Bihar elections, the Gandhis used the occasion to paint PM Modi's government as “pro-corporate”, “anti-farmer” and “anti-people”, with Sonia questioning his “empty slogans” and the BJP's "politics of polarisation".
“Fighting the forces dividing us is our biggest challenge. They are doing so to divert attention from the failures of the Modi government," she said.
Rahul returned to his favourite “suit-boot” jibe to argue that the PM listened only to well-dressed corporates and never cared to speak to farmers or labourers or youth to know what they wanted. His speech also evoked emotions of farmers by equating land to a mother. “For farmers, land is a second mother. PM Modi was trying to snatch away the mother of farmers, and not really their land,” Rahul said to an applause from the gathering.