Farmers protest: Congress steps in with rallies
The Congress leadership feels the time has come for direct political intervention to sustain the farmers’ struggle by mobilising public support across the country in the face of the government’s refusal to concede the demand for the repeal of the three controversial agriculture laws.
The Congress, which has argued for long that the government was working on a strategy to tire out the protesting farmers and break the unity among the unions through coercion and defamation, has already launched parallel protest rallies in a bid to extend the scope of the movement in regions outside Delhi. They believe the protest can be sustained only by turning it into a people’s movement. The kisan mahapanchayats being held across western Uttar Pradesh has shown the way for the broadening of the struggle.
While two major farmers’ rallies addressed by Congress leader Sachin Pilot were organised in Rajasthan over the past few days, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra held a rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur to start the “Jai Jawan-Jai Kisan” campaign that will continue through February.
Priyanka will address rallies in Meerut and Bijnour on February 15. She is expected to visit Mathura and Muzaffarnagar on February 20.
While Wednesday’s rally in Saharanpur was impressive, Priyanka is scheduled to visit Allahabad on Thursday and take a dip at the Sangam, a mega event expected to motivate party workers for the month-long struggle. All senior leaders of Uttar Pradesh have been asked to participate in the farmers’ rallies across the state. While there will be meetings in every block of Uttar Pradesh, a 14km-long padyatra has been planned in every district on February 25.
Priyanka appealed to farmers to join the protest and said the peasants shouldn’t take even one step backwards till the three laws were repealed.
“The time has come to wake up... don’t go back. You have started a movement, it is a movement for your existence, a movement for your land. Don’t go back even one step. We stand with you, we will fight for you. We will not go back before these laws are scrapped,” she said at Chilkhana in Saharanpur.
“You have seen them (the central government), you have seen everything and so be wise now, understand the truth. Whenever they make a promise, you can be sure that it will be empty,” the Congress general secretary added.
“They have done everything for their big, rich friends, opened all the doors for them. But where were those millionaire friends when there was a lockdown, when the epidemic hit us? Where were they and where was this government when people were walking on these highways towards their villages? What did you (the government) do, how did you help them? Those people (the government and its rich friends) don’t care for you,” Priyanka said.
She said the Congress would repeal the laws if it came to power. “You will get better minimum support price; laws would be made for you and not to put you on sale,” Priyanka said. “I appeal to each and every farmer of any caste or religion to join the protest.”
The Congress units in states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat are also planning to start farmers’ conferences soon. Rahul Gandhi, who will proceed to Rajasthan after taking on the government over the budget in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, will address farmers’ rallies at Sri Ganganagar and Ajmer on February 12 and 13. His visits to Assam and Bengal will start next week.
On Wednesday the Congress leader attacked the Prime Minister’s “andolanjeevi” jibe at farmers by tweeting: “The one who is selling the country is crony-jeevi.”
Reacting to the Prime Minister’s reply to the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address in the Lok Sabha, Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala said in a series of tweets: “Modiji, your commitment to farmer welfare is deceptive. You claim to be with farmers but actually you are with capitalists. Your policies establish this. You champion of divisive politics, you, not the Congress, are confused. You are the biggest example of autocratic rule in the garb of democracy.”
Surjewala added: “You care for neither arguments and appeals, nor for human sensitivities. The most shameful example is your silence on the deaths of 220 protesting farmers. You champion of sermons, the entire country knows the difference between your words and deeds. You will realise if you introspect but your ideology doesn’t allow that. If you come out of self-delusion, you will repent over your failures in the last six years. But the problem is that you cannot see beyond I, me, my, myself. It is unfortunate that you pretend to be the mascot of democracy after crushing democracy everyday.”
Additional reporting by Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow