“I have not come to Delhi for the first time and neither will it be the last time. I came here to support Narendra Modi last year, shattered by broken promises, I have come here to support Rahul today, if there is a need, I will again come to support someone else tomorrow. However, I know that our problems will not be resolved but that does not mean I will give up. I will continue coming to Delhi and listen to the new promises and then if I feel let down, will protest against the broken ones”, said a farmer from Punjab who had come to participate in Rahul Gandhi’s rally.
All that was visible in areas around Ram Lila Maidan was hoards and hoards of people with congress flags and tricolour caps marching towards Ram Lila Maidan in Delhi. The occasion was Rahul Gandhi’s rally against the contentious Land Acquisition ordinance, brought in by the BJP led NDA government at the Centre. The enthusiasm among the workers was unprecedented; it was a kind of energy that has been missing in the Congress ranks and its workers fora long time now. And this rejuvenated energy can is understandable, BJP has served in a platter host of issues , needed to revive the ‘Gandhian’ outfit in the form of Land Acquisition Bill.
A few among a group of people who had come from Rajasthan for this rally, termed it as another struggle for Independence, “this time the farmers are battling the corporate rule and governments supported by it”, said a party worker.
The kind of slogans being chanted and talks doing rounds among the workers and lower level party leaders, who had traveled all the way to Delhi, suggested that the Congress is desperately trying to regain it’s lost ground, on pretext of being pro poor and anti crony capitalism. However, when in power, it was continuously alleged that the party deviated from Nehruvian economic policies and has turned out rightly pro capital. To add to it was the personal image of former Prime Minister, who during his stint as Finance Minister under the late Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao initiated economic reforms in India way back in 1991..
Before Congress Vice president Rahul Gandhi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, arrived at the venue in their motorcade amidst tight security, seats were occupied inside the ground, leaving another thousands, on the roads outside, waiting for a glimpse of their leaders. In a tactful move, probably to send a message that people had gathered from all parts of the country and not from only NCRs, groups of people were seen wearing their traditional dresses and some even performing their traditional dances.
Both Sonia and Rahul , arrived at the venue at around 12 in the afternoon, when they were joined by former PM Manmohan Singh and other congress leaders. Former Prime Minister and Congress President were felicitated by the farmers of Bhatta Parsaul, the village that was the focal point of the Land acquisition bill, 2011 amidst the protests by farmers in this Uttar Pradesh village. A well thought strategy to send a message that farmers from across country are represented by them, who supported the congress version of the land acquisition bill.
As soon as a fresh and determined looking Rahul Gandhi, who remained absent from public life for almost two months, walked towards the mike, a fierce and energetic crowd, shouted, ‘Rahul Gandhi tum Sangharsh Karo, Hum Tumhare sath hain.’ The crowd was in no mood to let it it’s leader go down on moral again. And the congress vice president left no stone unturned in sounding more mature and calculative than ever before.
In an aggressive speech, taking a jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at many instances, he punched the BJP led NDA government from all corners. And probably also silenced those detractors who questioned his ability to lead the party including senior leaders like Sheila Dixit. It looked a perfect day out for him.
In a speech packed with frequent attacks and praises for Congress, he tried to project his party as one that cared for the working class, the farmers and the laborers and millions and millions of others who remained in despair, while India was allegedly ‘shining’ under the NDA regime.
‘We in the congress have always helped the farmers, whenever we can. On the other hand this government under Narendra Modi has won the 2014 elections with the help from big Industrialists, and now they are determined to pay them back in the form of your land’, he said to the farmers.
Unloading his guns further, he attacked the foundation stone of Narendra Modi’s Election campaign last year, the Gujarat Model of Development. He alleged that Narendra Modi’s Gujarat Model is nothing, but only an illustration to show how land can be cheated away from them. In a calculated statement to strike an emotional chord with the masses out there, he said, ‘Modi wants the kids of farmers to be the drivers of children of the Big Industrialists.’ And the crowd shouted again, Rahul Gandhi Zindabad.
The next to speak was the congress supreme Sonia Gandhi, who only charged up the ongoing attacks launched by her party on the NDA government. Sonia has been actively campaigning against the amendments in the bill and has even led a delegation to the President to intervene into the matter.
Digging at the government’s economic policies, that promoted imports of essential food items like wheat from foreign countries, she aroused the farmers by saying, ‘They import wheat from Australia while sidelining your wheat. Where are those people gone who said that farmers should not kill themselves’ ‘she asked?
It is true that we are not in the government. But that does not mean that we will let the voice of farmers be stifled. We will always fight for your rights. She assured the gathering. Others to speak at the meeting were Manmohan Singh, Digvivaya Singh among others leaders from the party. Manmohan Singh, who had been often criticized as a ‘mute’ Prime Minister, during his tenure in the government from 2004 to 2014 also did not hesitate to sound aggressive and barbed the current government with frequent attacks.
Sandwiched between the tussle of these two mainstream political parties, small farmers who are living in different parts of India are caught in the trap of nature and politics had traveled to Delhi in search of some consolation. They are seeking for adequate compensation packages and security of their land from the government in the Centre.
Rayess Khan, who traveled had to Delhi from the adjacent Mewat in Haryana along with many others from his village looked desolate. “My crops have been destroyed and have not received any compensation for it so far, if not supported in time; my family comprising ten members will have to starve. We have no other means of supporting us financially”, he told Tehelka.
Similar tales were reverberated in different voices of farmers from other part of the country. The element of melancholy was common in all and happiness seemed a distant word to them.
Reflecting on the issue of credit faced by the farmer, an old man from Rajasthan explained the trap in which they are stuck and are forced to commit suicides. “I already I have an existing loan of Rs 1 lakh from a bank and now I have gone bankrupt. I wanted to apply for more loans but that can happen only if I repay me earlier loan. And that does not seem happening, so in my fate is written that I have to live and sustain for some money now.”
When asked about the problems of farmers, during the congress regime, Sukhvinder from Haryana said “The problems of farmers persist in all the governments and no government has been very sensitive about our issues. But I must acknowledge that the last government in power was better for as compared to this one. They at least waived of our loans once and introduce a more secured version of land acquisition act for us.”
Amidst all this high voltage political drama unfolding on the issue of land bill, it is certain that more news of farmers suicide will not be something uncommon to read about.