NEW DELHI -- Charging that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has "no time" to meet farmers and hear their woes, Congress today said it would take the fight on the "anti-farmer" land bill to the states.
Addressing a Kisan Samman rally at Ramlila Ground here, party President Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi vowed to fight tooth and nail any attempt to bring back the land ordinance in any form and countered the Prime Minister's charge that Congress was blocking development.
Accusing the Prime Minister of going back on his promises made during Lok Sabha polls and "talking hollow" after coming to power, she charged the Prime Minister has "no time" to meet farmers and address their woes as he has time and interest only for his "few industrialist friends".
"Yes, he has also the interest, time and money for foreign trips," the Congress President said taking a jibe at Modi's foreign visits.
Holding that a party, which fought to get India freedom from the Britishers and participated in the growth story of the nation for 60 years cannot be anti-development, Sonia said that whenever the government does not listen to the problems of the farmers and the poor, Congress will stand in its way.
"The Congress will act as an obstacle in their way whenever they stop giving an ear to peoples' problems, whenever farmers are not given Minimum Support Price, whenever drought and flood affected farmers are left at the mercy of God and the price of edible items is not brought down.
"If development means benefiting few persons, we will definitely act as a roadblock in such development," she said alleging Modi is trying to paint Congress as anti-development in order to "hide failures" of NDA government.
Hailing the farmers as "not only Annadaata but also Bhagyavidhata" (not only food giver but destiny makers) of the country, she said the farmers are undergoing one after another crisis ever since Modi government came to power.
On the land bill she told the farmers, "The fight is yet not finished. The battlefield has now only shifted from Delhi to states as the Prime Minister, after having failed to do it at Centre, is trying to get it done in states. We need to be all the more careful now, otherwise your struggle will go in vain and you will driven away from your land."
Terming the fight on the land issue, a fight for "not only land but honour of farmers, who treat land as mother," Rahul asked them not to trust the promise made by Modi few days back not to bring changes in UPA land law, which came after Modi government promulgated the ordinance three times to press them.
"We know what Modi ji is. He does not say what he thinks.
That is why on one hand, he said that he will not change the Congress law and on the other hand asked his Chief Ministers to bring them (the changes)."
Telling farmers that the fight is not over in Parliament, he said,"I want to tell the leaders of Congress in states.
This is not only a fight of Parliament. This has also to be fought in Assemblies." .
Ahead of Bihar polls, Centre decided not to promulgate the land Ordinance for the fourth time and decided to wait till the Joint Committee of Parliament submits its report on the bill besides allowing states to have their own land laws.
Rahul said Modi's promise not to press for the ordinance and not to force changes in the bill now is "definitely a victory for Congress but before that it is the victory of farmers of India", adding the 44 MPs of Congress could successfully fight against Government only because they were backed by the strength of farmers.
Coining a phrase "Take in India" to attack Modi, Rahul attacked the Prime Minister's much talked about "Make in India" campaign.
"Modi talks about Make in India but there is no place for farmers, labourers in his Make in India. Modi ji says there can be no Make in India without taking away your land. It is not Make in India but actually Take in India. In the end you will not get anything. Only two three of his friends will be the beneficiaries," he said.
Rahul also accused the Prime Minister of working only for his "few friends in suit boot" and paying no attention to farmers.
Reminding farmers of their emotional connect with land, he said that in the course of his agitation against NDA on the land bill issue, "A farmer told me Modi is snatching not land but our mother from us. He wants to snatch our mother from us and want to give it to somebody else. We cannot tolerate it."
"He asked me to fight for them and then I realized that this is not a fight for land but a fight for their honour, their future."
The Congress Vice President said only eight per cent projects are withheld due to land unavailability.
Rahul also talked about the plight of labourers, who work at Alang ship-breaking yard in Bhavnagar in Gujarat to drive home the point that Modi's Gujarat model is not for the labourers and the downtrodden. He said that labourers, who are engaged in dismantling ships and boats at Alang die early due to radioactive substance and there is no law to protect them.
He said that he wants to tell the Prime Minister that wherever the farmers and workers will be ignored, Congress workers will rise to protest. "We will not move an inch away," from protecting the rights of farmers, he said.
Accusing Modi of not involving Youths and farmers while making policies for them, he said only industrialists, rich and bureaucrats are involved in policy making.
Alleging that Modi government has "failed" on all counts, Sonia Gandhi said she feels like "pitying as well as laughing" at Modi over his allegation that Congress was blocking his development agenda.
"While all sections of people are facing hardships, Modi government engaging in hollow talks and making only speeches.
It is promoting activities, which aim at deflecting attention from real issues and create tension in society, which is the biggest danger for the unity of the nation. It's the biggest challenge for us and we are ready to make any sacrifice to halt this," Gandhi said.
Highlighting the problems faced by farmers on all counts, Sonia said, "Only Modi government, its apathy and wrong polilcies are responsible for all these problems...It seems Modi government has closed its ears and eyes towards your problems. He has neither interest nor time to resolve your problems."
Seeking to contrast Modi government's functioning vis a vis the poor and the farmer with that of Manmohan Singh-led government of UPA, she said that the UPA had waived loans of farmers worth Rs 72 thousand crores when the farmers were in distress.
"Five months before, we had gathered here to oppose the black ordinance of Modi government. All of us held agitations in the entire country opposing the changes in the 2013 land law. Numerous farmers organisaions and civil society organisations also raised its voice against it. Except NDA, all political parties strongly opposed the changes.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not realise the seriousness of this agitation and ignored it but he had to bow down finally when the strength the 'hand' (Congress' hand symbol) and the 'hal' (plough) joined together," she said, crediting the farmers for the government's decision to not re-promulgate the land ordinance.
The Congress President claimed that seeing this massive public gathering, the land beneath the BJP government's feet must have "slipped".
Rahul said that Congress MPs had to take medicines during their vociferous protest in Parliament on the land bill issue as the party decided to step up the fight against the government on the issue.
Ruing that prices of edible items are skyrocketing, the Congress President accused the Prime Minister of having no time time to address such issues.
"He has plenty of time for foreign trips. He has also time to provide Rs 40 thousand crore tax benefit to industrialists.
"Youths are running from pillar to post in search of employment. What happened to the promises of Modi ji. The NDA government has carried our massive cuts in welfare schemes of the government," Sonia said.
Terming Modi government as "anti-farmer", former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh alleged that it kept on making attempts to weaken the law.
"They issued Ordinance thrice. But our leaders and other opposition leaders were alert. They joined hands and did not allow it to happen and Modi Government was left disappointed," he said, adding that Congress' fight has just begun.
Singh, who led UPA I and UPA II governments for ten years, also alleged that efforts are being made to weaken those other programmes too which the UPA Government had implemented for the benefit of farmers and labourers.
"MNREGA was a programme which assured a livelihood to people. Attempts are being made to weaken public distribution system. Food security act passed in 2013 is also being weakened. Hence, we will have to remain alert," Singh said.