The Gandhi family scion returned after his two-month long sabbatical to lead a large farmers’ rally against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Land Bill on Sunday. Rahul Gandhi was trying to set himself up as Narendra Modi’s opposition but his speech did not captivate his audience and it all went downhill from there.
Gandhi attacked the Modi government and called them corrupt. He alleged that the government was taking money from the industrialists and giving away farming land to them. The Land Bill is an amendment to a land acquisition law which had made it harder to purchase land for industrial development and the Modi government is determined to push it through.
Gandhi could be seen telling the 70,000 crowd in a news clip that “The Modi government wants to weaken farmers to such an extent that they are rendered helpless and forced to sell their land.” But while he went on about the current government’s backdoor handling, Gandhi forgot that his own party was in the midst of an ongoing investigation, and that their last term in office was beset by a parade of corruption scandals, including the telecom licensing and the illegal mining scandal.
Gandhi did not raise any new issues and harped on his party’s achievements, almost a year after the party lost the national elections by a large margin. Accompanied by his mother, Sonia Gandhi who is also the party president, and the former prime minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, he vented out against the policies of the current government. In an attempt to raise his popularity and to be seen as a worthy opponent to Modi, Gandhi even blamed the current government for not helping out the farmers after unseasonal rain and inclement weather damaged the crops.
Gandhi tried to polish his pro-poor stance by stating that the INC had always helped the farmers. They had subsidized fertilizers and waived off farmers’ loans worth $11 billion in the past. Though these solutions did not help the farmers much, Gandhi said, “Whatever we did, we did for the poor. We have always worked for the poor and the weak, and we will continue to fight their battle.”
He further took pot shots at Modi’s manufacturing program, Make in India, to make India viable as an important manufacturing hub. Gandhi called it Modi’s “pipe dream” and told the farmers that it was just a method to take their land away from them without giving them proper jobs.
In today’s address to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the legislative body, Gandhi said that the government had failed the farmers and this move would come to bite them in the future. He advised the prime minister that there is more to gain politically if he sides with the farmers and called them the government of industrialists. But many critics said that it was hypocritical of Gandhi to do so, as the previous government had also been funded by many industrialists.
Gandhi has been trying to position himself as a common man and trying hard to associate with the farmers and the poor but sometimes he tries too hard. He rarely comes in public to interact with people and during the rally he shared anecdotes from his visit to an Australian diamond mine but did not talk about the needed overhaul of the crop insurance system in the wake of bad weather. Indian farmers are getting frustrated too, as the sector is in need of dire reforms and not just stop-gap measures. A study by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies found that 76 percent of the farmers do not want to be involved in the agricultural sector and would rather do other work while 60 percent wanted their children to settle down in cities.
The 44 year-old is the great-grandson, grandson and son of previous Indian prime ministers but is still clueless about these issues though. Gandhi’s heritage has come to haunt him as he sets himself as Modi’s opposition and it was visible when he spoke about the Land Bill. He did not mention any solutions or ways in which he will contest it. He promised to stand beside the farmers and that was it. He glossed over what should be done or is being done. Even the farmers who were present were not hopeful and many were seen walking away in news clips.
By Anugya Chitransh
Photo by Dr.DJM – Flickr License