NEW DELHI — Back after a 56-day break from politics, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi along with party president Sonia Gandhi will address a rally on Sunday over the land acquisition bill and against the Narendra Modi government policies that the party describes as "anti-farmer".
The "kisan khet mazdoor" (farmer-farms labour) rally is being widely seen as a show of strength for a party desperate to reverse its sliding fortunes after a string of election drubbings.
Rahul, who led a 'padyatra', a protest march in Bhatta Parsaul in 2011 against the then Mayawati government's land acquisition in Uttar Pradesh, will be seen in the forefront once again at the farmers' rally.
He was not seen in public for nearly two months since the budget session of parliament began on February 23. He returned here on April 16 from an undisclosed destination where he was said to have retreated in a leave of absence from politics.
Delhi: Security tightened ahead of Congress’ Mega Farmer Rally pic.twitter.com/Br2SMEv0No— ANI (@ANI_news) April 19, 2015
On the eve of the second half of the budget session set to reconvene on April 20, farmers will converge here to attend the rally at Ramlila Maidan, where most political protests in the capital are held.
The Congress, which has been strongly opposing changes in the original legislation on land acquisition brought by its government in 2013, is protesting the dilution of the original consent clause which makes it mandatory to secure 80 percent approval of those dependent on the land being procured.
The Congress is "determined to oppose" the land bill that will be introduced in the Lok Sabha for the second time in the upcoming session, said Congress leader Anand Sharma.
BREAKING | Delhi: Rahul Gandhi to address mega farmers rally today at Ramlila Maidan— CNN-IBN News (@ibnlive) April 19, 2015
"They will face a brick wall of opposition," he said, adding that Rahul Gandhi is likely to address the Lok Sabha on the issue this time.
The party vice president held meetings on Saturday with multiple delegations of farmers from Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh to hear their issues regarding the land acquisition ordinance as well as their concern due to the crop loss.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told IANS that the rally is being organised at a mammoth scale to protest the Narendra Modi-government's "anti-farmer and anti-poor" policies.
"We will protest against the Draconian land acquisition ordinance 2015 and raise voice for the stress caused to farmers by the damage of 200 lakh hectare of land..."
Following a trail of destruction caused by unseasonal rain and hailstorm across the agrarian states in the country, the partially damaged crop lying in wholesale is yet to be picked up by the government.
"We would raise the issue at the rally since the government is rejecting that crop on the plea that it has 14 percent moisture content. But even the good crop would have some. Where would the poor farmer go for help," asked Surjewala.
#RahulGandhi to launch big battle against Land Bill at Delhi's Ramlila Maidan todayApril 19, 2015
"We will also raise our voice against the embargo on states for not releasing the compensation. The poor farmers are not getting adequate market selling price for the Rabi crop. That is another area of concern for us," he added.
A 17-coach 'Kisan Express' train will carry farmers from Jaipur to Delhi on Sunday. Huge billboards dot the streets of the national capital and radio spots publicise the rally.
Following a stormy first half of the budget session that witnessed multiple walkouts by the opposition in the Lok Sabha over the land acquisition bill, the Congress has sought to up the ante by protests against the land bill issue.
Sonia led a foot march by the opposition from parliament to Rashtrapati Bhavan while the party fielded a battery of senior leaders who raised slogans like "Kisan Virodhi Narendra Modi" on the streets of Delhi and at Jantar Mantar on March 16.