NEW DELHI — Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has a piece of advice to Prime Minister Narendra Modi — change camps from corporates to farmers. The young Gandhi scion came out with a strongly-worded statement against the Land Acquisition Bill on Monday when he spoke at the Lok Sabha. This was the first time Gandhi has spoken at all in the lower house of the parliament since the new government took over last May.
Alleging that the Modi government was only working in favour of vested corporate interests, Gandhi said the Bharatiya Janata Party would benefit if it chose to side with the farmers and labourers, who make up 67 percent of the country.
"You are making a big mistake, you are hurting farmers and labourers," said Gandhi. "And in the coming time they will hurt you. "
Gandhi alleged that it was a calculated move on Modi's part to earn the goodwill of corporates. "You are thinking wrong - you think that those who drive big cars and have big businesses are the strong ones," he said. "This country's strength is with farmers." In his "advice" to Modi, he said that if the PM supported farmers, he would hurt the opposition and manage to gain strength from the strong farmer base.
He alleged that Modi and his government was instead weakening farmers. "And when he is unable to stand, you will axe him with your ordinance," he said.
Comparing UPA With NDA
Gandhi on Monday referred to agriculture growth statistics to assert that the Congress-led UPA government had been far more successful than BJP-led NDA government in its tenure.
"Our government, the 'Achhe Din' government, has failed the country," he said on Monday, claiming that during the UPA government, agriculture credit grew by 700 percent. He also claimed that credit went up to Rs 8 lakh crore, benefiting 6.5 crore farmers at the time. Comparing the average increase in credit of about 20 percent annually during UPA's tenure, Gandhi said he was "sad to say" that the current govt had only shown an increase of 5 percent in the past year.
He alleged that BJP had already allowed the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for crops — which is the minimum price at which government buys crops from farmers — to stagnate. While quoting numbers to show the dramatic increase in MSP by the UPA government, he alleged that the current regime has done little in this regard.
"Gandhi alleged that Modi and his government was instead weakening farmers."
He claimed that agriculture grew at 4.1 percent under the UPA government, unlike the previous NDA government where the growth was at 2.6 percent. Referring to Modi's promise to farmers during campaigning before elections to look after them, Gandhi said that agriculture growth was instead at one percent after Modi came to power.
"How can you talk about strengthening this country? If the foundation of this country is the farmer, how are you going to do that?" he asked.
Gandhi made several references to BJP, mocking them during his 15 minute speech. Recollecting how an NGO worker had approached Gandhi a couple of days before his Sunday rally, he said that the worker told him he had gone to BJP minister Nitin Gadkari too, before this.
"I'd like to praise Mr. Gadkari. He is the one minister who speaks his heart and tells the truth," said Gandhi. "He said - 'Kisaan ko na bhagwaan pe, na sarkaar pe bharosa karna chahiye.' (A farmer shouldn't depend on god or the government)."
Mocking both Gadkari and other ministers, Gandhi said that it was great that he spoke truly on the issue, instead of lying about it.
He also joked about Modi's radio show 'Mann ki baat', finishing with, "Mann ki baat, dil ki baat. (Mind's words, heart's words)."
What's At Stake?
Claiming that the BJP government was unable to calculate India's huge loss in agriculture, Gandhi said that the centre was confused. "India's biggest agricultural experts have said that 180 lakh hectare have been lost. It is a loss of Rs 40,000 crore in 14 states," he said.
"After that PM says no, what experts say is wrong, but that the loss has been of 106 lakh hectares. Then the agriculture ministry says no, PM is wrong, 80 lakh hectares have been affected. Who is telling the truth?"
He said this was the "BJP way", where the government said different things to different people, and then claim all of it to be true.
He urged the PM to take a look himself by travelling to places where farmers were hurting the most. "Your government is ignoring farmer's troubles, and not listening to labourers," said Gandhi. "Your government is businessmen's government, big people's government, suit-boot government."