Rahul attacks Modi over land bill

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New Delhi: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday accused prime minister Narendra Modi of seeking to “return the debt of industrialists by giving them land of farmers”, and said the Congress was firmly with the poor and farmers and will stand with them if there is any attempt to snatch their land.

Addressing the “Kisan Khet Mazdoor rally” here — his first major public event since his return from nearly a two-month-long leave of absence, Gandhi repeatedly attacked Modi and the NDA government and pitched the Congress as the party which will always stand by the farmers and the poor and fight for their interests.

“Modi took loan from big industrialists to win the (Lok Sabha) election. How will he meet their obligation? By giving your land to them… They want to weaken the land bill,” Gandhi said.

He alleged that the government wants that farmers do not get adequate price for their crops, do not get fertiliser and the farmer is not able to stand on his feet.

“Then, they will purchase your land and give it to industrialists… There is the Gujarat model. What he (Modi) did in Gujarat, he wants to do it in India… Modi wants to weaken the foundation,” he said.

Gandhi was on the offensive right from the start of his nearly 25-minute speech.

“Today the farmer and labourer is feeling nervous. There are two reasons — one, he feels that the government has forgotten him and it belongs to industrialists and second, the BJP wants to change the land acquisition bill that was passed in 2013 (during UPA rule),” Gandhi said.

He said farmers had laid the foundation for the economic development of the country “but today when he sleeps, he does not know what will happen tomorrow, when will his land be snatched. He is fearful….”

Referring to his own efforts for farmers in Vidarbha, Bhatta Parsaul, Niyamgiri and Bundelkhand, Gandhi said the NDA government was “weakening the farmer” and working against the interests of the poor.

Gandhi said he will fight for farmers if their land was taken forcibly.

“Congress is firmly with the farmers and the poor. Wherever there is an attempt to snatch their land, Congress leaders will be there. I will be there.”

Referring to the land ordinance of the Modi government, he said the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government wants to give land to the rich by creating a land bank.

He said the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Modi government will not be successful.

“On the one side, they want to weaken you, on the other, they are talking of Make in India. This is not going to be successful,” he said.

He said the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government had taken several steps for the welfare of farmers, including substantially raising the minimum support price (MSP) of wheat and rice. He said the UPA provided Rs.70,000 crore loan waiver to farmers and brought the employment guarantee act for labourers.

“Whatever we did, we did for the poor,” he said.

Gandhi said the youth of Niyamgiri told him that if land was given to Vedanta, about 400 boys will join Maoists to fight the government. He said the Congress successfully fought for people of Niyamgiri.

Gandhi said Modi had spoken on foreign soil that he was trying to remove “kachra” (dirt) of the past 50 years”.

“I was pained to hear the remarks. He does not understand the power of the people. They have given their sweat and blood over the past 60 years. He did not see it. Such words do not behove Modi or the post of prime minister,” Gandhi said.

Gandhi also slammed the previous Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh, accusing it of taking land of farmers in Bhatta Parsaul without their consent.

“I fought for your rights. It took two years to prepare the land bill,” Gandhi said.

He said BJP leaders had supported the bill in 2013. “What has changed? Why are you bringing it through ordinance? Why is BJP not listening to farmers?”

He said there was a need for industrial corridors and manufacturing but it was also vital to protect the interests of farmers.

“We assure that we will fight (for farmers)… We fought in Niyamgiri… We will fight and win.”

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