NEW DELHI -- Congress Party-vice president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said that farmers he met on the first day of his padyatra in Maharashtra felt abandoned by the Narendra Modi-government in the face of severe losses to their crops because of unseasonal rains and hailstorms.
More than 600 farmers have killed themselves in Maharashtra in the past three months.
"The farmers and labourers feel that they have been abandoned," Gandhi told the media in the Amravati district. "This is not a government for farmers, labourers, poor or small businessmen."
Gandhi is traveling around 175 kilometres by foot to those villages where farmers have committed suicide in recent months. Mounting debts, Gandhi said, were behind most of these deaths.
But the Congress leader stopped short of making any concrete promises to the alleviate the plight of the farmers. "How can I give assurance? We don't have the capacity to help them so much," he said, slamming the central government for "ignoring the farmers."
Farmers, he said, wanted "karz maafi" (debts to be canceled).
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party hit back at Gandhi for his attack on the Modi government. BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra told ANI that Gandhi should take a 'pashchataap yatra' (repentance march).
"Today when Rahul Gandhi is trying to get a political posturing out of his yatras, the serious suggestion would be that Mr. Rahul Gandhi and Congress should be in a repentance mode," he said.
Addressing the Lok Sabha, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley mocked Gandhi's jibe that the prime minister spent more time on foreign trips than inside the country.
"India is now being considered a global leader and that is no mean achievement. It was unheard of, that when a prime minister travels abroad, the entire diaspora is rejuvenated. Prime Minister Modi may travel abroad, but at least we know where he is," Jaitley said, referring to Gandhi's 56-day sabbatical.
Dismissing Gandhi's "suit-boot ki sarkar" remark, Jaitley described the Modi government as one of "sooj-bhooj" (reason and common sense).