Rahul Gandhi meets farmers a day before big show

Rajat Kain

rahul_gandhiA Day before Congress party’s crucial farmer’s rally in Delhi’s ramlila maidan, Rahul Gandhi met with the farmer’s delegation from several states. Since morning various farmer bodies, groups and even individual farmers from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, MP, Maharashtra and even Delhi began assembling outside the Congress Vice-President’s official resident 12, Tughlak Lane as well as the Congress party headquarters at 24 Akbar Road.

The meeting with the farmers is seen as a preface to the massive ‘Kisan-Khet Mazdoor’ rally on Sunday. Rahul Gandhi, along with some select senior leaders met the delegations on the problems being faced by them due to the change in Land Acquisition legislation and the loss of crops due to the spate of unseasonal rains in March and April. They are expected to hear out the farmers through the course of the day.

“The farmers are facing a grave situation. We hope he raises voice for us,” said the farmer delegates at the meeting.

This is Rahul Gandhi’s first public meeting after he returned from his 56-days leave of absence on Thursday. The Sunday’s rally against Land Ordinance is seen as a podium for the Congress party to launch its first big attack on the BJP-led NDA government at the centre. It is also tipped to be an occasion for Rahul Gandhi to mark his political comeback.

The question over Rahul Gandhi and his possible elevation as the Congress party president has become a big talking point within the party. Several senior members have strongly voiced for not changing the top leadership at this juncture.

Rahul Gandhi had led the party’s campaign and designed its electoral strategy in 2014 general elections in which the Congress faced decimation returning with just 44 members to the Lok Sabha. The biggest loss in the history of party triggered a section within voicing that Rahul Gandhi, or his chosen aides, should too be sharing the blame for the results.

The rout has continued even after the general elections with Congress party loosing Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir to the BJP and its allies. And its worst came earlier this year with party drawing a blank in Delhi Assembly elections. Aam Aadmi Party, that has dented the Congress in earlier election as well, swept the polls.

Sunday rally is tipped to be party’s first big political showdown against Narendra Modi government over the issue of bringing in an Ordinance to change Land Acquisition Act.

Rahul Gandhi is seen as a man behind the legislation on land acquisition in 2013, which is often described as remarkable, pro-poor and pro-farmer by the Congress party. He had launched an agitation in 2011 from Bhatta Parsaul in Uttar Pradesh against forcible land acquisition of farmers. That agitation had eventually culminated into enactment of Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 by the Congress-led UPA government.

However, the NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought an ordinance in December 2014 to change the provisions of land acquisition which will impact various pro-farmer provisions of the original act. The issue of ordinance on land bill, therefore, has been pretty emotive for the farmers and the opposition parties too have been opposing it, even inside the Parliament.

Terming the government’s move anti-farmer, Congress party is out to confront the BJP.