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PM, write off either loan or sleep: Rahul Gandhi

The Congress chief said Modi wouldn’t be allowed to sleep unless he waived farm loans across the country

By Sanjay K. Jha in New Delhi
  • Published 19.12.18, 4:45 AM
  • Updated 19.12.18, 8:40 AM
  • 3 mins read
  •  
Rahul Gandhi speaks outside Parliament. Prem Singh

Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday declared that Prime Minister Narendra Modi wouldn’t be allowed to sleep unless he waived farm loans across the country, the open dare coming a day after his party offered the relief in two heartland states.

The Congress chief also challenged Modi to directly engage on the Rafale deal and answer specific questions.

The call to waive farm loans came as Rahul spoke to journalists at Parliament House in the morning. “It is the people’s money that is being used to write off the debts of 15-20 industrialists. This country is not theirs alone, this country is made of the blood and toil of the farmers, labourers and poor masses. We won’t allow the Prime Minister to sleep. We will force him to waive farmers’ loans,” Rahul said.

By citing the relief granted to industrialists, Rahul, who had gauged firsthand the plight of the farmers, may be preparing the ground to insulate himself from criticism that sections of economists and commentators are certain to air.

The BJP will find it difficult to challenge him, especially since party-ruled Assam joined the loan-waiver bandwagon by announcing a partial write-off on Monday night.

On Tuesday, Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad focused on the “sleep part”, saying “this is a new low in the public discourse”.

Rahul appeared emboldened by his party’s victory in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, three states the Congress took from the BJP in the latest round of Assembly elections.

The new chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh had signed orders to waive farm loans within hours of being sworn in on Monday.

While Kamal Nath was the first to deliver on the election promise in Madhya Pradesh, Bhupesh Baghel took the decision late in the evening in Chhattisgarh. Baghel also increased the minimum support price for paddy from Rs 1,750 a quintal to Rs 2,500.

Farmers had stopped selling paddy ever since the Congress promised an MSP of Rs 2,500 in its election manifesto. Procurement is now expected to resume in full swing.

Baghel also set up a special investigation team to probe the Jheeram Ghati Maoist attack in 2013 that had wiped out the entire frontline Congress leadership in the state.

Rahul asked Modi to learn from the Congress how to deliver on promises.

“Two states didn’t take more than six hours even as I promised in election rallies that farm loans up to Rs 2 lakh will be waived in 10 days. The third state (Rajasthan) is about to do it. The Prime Minister has not waived off even one rupee of farmers’ loans in four-and-a-half years. But he stole Rs 30,000 crore in the Rafale deal to put into the pocket of Anil Ambani who has a debt of Rs 45,000 crore. He wrote off Rs 3.5 lakh crore of chosen industrialists,” he said.

“The Prime Minister is making two types of India,” Rahul said. “One, where you find 15-20 industrialists, private planes and loan-waiver; and the other for farmers, jobless youth and poor workers, small shopkeepers and other weak and deprived people. But I want to tell the farmers and the poor people, the country belongs to them.” Injustice is being done to you; your voice is not heard. We will fight, we won’t yield an inch.”

Rahul, who plans to stretch the party’s outreach to farmers, expanded the Kisan Congress on Tuesday, appointing four vice-presidents, 10 national coordinators and 12 joint coordinators. The party’s farmer wing, which is drawing up programmes to connect with peasants across the country, had never got such importance in the past.

On Rafale, the new Congress chief ministers signed a petition, along with thousands others, seeking a joint parliamentary committee probe.

The party has planned a five-day media blitz — from December 18 to 22 — in all major cities to counter the BJP’s propaganda on Rafale after the Supreme Court’s verdict last week.

The Supreme Court had on Friday dismissed petitions questioning key aspects of the Rafale deal, prompting the government and the BJP to tom-tom the verdict as a “clean chit”.

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