Listen to the farmers, Sonia tells Modi govt.

Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of having no time for farmers, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday vowed to take her party’s fight for farmers’ rights from Delhi to the States.

Speaking at a Kisan Samman rally on the Ramlila Maidan to commemorate the Congress’ ‘victory’ in forcing the Modi government to backtrack on the controversial land acquisition ordinance, Ms. Gandhi pronounced it as a victory for all farmers.

Though the rally was organised to highlight the leadership of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in the party’s campaign against the controversial ordinance, it was Ms. Gandhi’s speech which struck a greater resonance with the thousands of farmers who had assembled at the ground.

Ms. Gandhi declared that as long as the Narendra Modi government failed to listen to the farmers, the Congress would continue to act as an obstacle.

This was a counter to the Centre’s criticism that the Congress was working against the development of the country by blocking business in Parliament.

“The Congress will be an obstacle in their way whenever they stop giving an ear to people’s 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 a few persons, we will definitely act as a roadblock in such development.” Ms. Gandhi hailed the farmer as “not only Annadaata but also Bhagyavidhata” (not only food-givers but destiny-makers) of the country, pointing out that the UPA government had waived over Rs. 70,000 cr. in farmer loans. She warned the gathering that the fight on the Land Bill was not yet over since the Central government would now try to implement the law in the States, having failed at the Centre.

“We need to be all the more careful now, otherwise your struggle will go in vain and you will be driven away from your land,” she said.

The Congress had earlier organised another mega rally on the Ramlila Maidan on April 20 against the ordinance when the Opposition offensive against the government on the issue was building steam. That rally was also billed as Mr. Gandhi’s comeback show after a mysterious two month-long sabbatical.

The Congress vice-president, in his speech on Sunday, drew on the idea that a farmer’s relationship to his land went beyond just the material, stating that the battle the Congress was fighting was for his honour and prestige.

He recounted that a farmer had told him that the land he tilled was like his own mother.

“He told me that [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi is not just snatching our land but our mother. He wants to snatch our mother and give it to someone else, please fight for us,” Mr. Gandhi said.

The Congress vice-president said that though Mr. Modi had allowed the land ordinance to lapse, he had instructed the BJP Chief Ministers to implement its contents. “I know Modiji. What he really says he does not do,” he said.

Mr. Gandhi also came up with the phrase ‘Take in India’ as a retort to the Prime Minister’s ‘Make In India’ initiative. “Modiji says that there should be Make in India, but there is no place for labourers and farmers in his Make in India. This is not Make in India, this is Take in India,” he told the gathering.