An aggressive Rahul Gandhi tore into the government in Parliament over a contentious land acquisition bill on Tuesday, threatening to take the protests to the streets if the NDA didn’t listen to Opposition demands of scrapping the “anti-poor” legislation.
The Congress vice-president attacked the Modi government for killing “farmer-friendly” clauses in an UPA-era bill, pointing out the finance ministry had admitted only eight out of 100 projects were stalled due to lack of land.
“We will take to the streets if you go ahead with the new bill. This ‘suit-boot ka kaam’ will not go on. I was told that robbers come in at midnight, silently jump through the window… but the biggest thieves come during the day… and they come wearing a suit,” the 44-year-old said in the Lok Sabha.
Gandhi also told the Lok Sabha the government was keen on acquiring land in areas that are high in real estate value. “Land is not acquired in Bundelkand or Rajasthan. They want places near cities, near Noida. There’s gold under your feet and these people (govt) want to steal it from you.”
The Amethi MP has been at the forefront of the Congress charge against NDA’S land bill after coming back from a nearly two-month-long sabbatical and has repeatedly painted the Modi government as an “anti-farmer” regime in favour of big industrialists.
The Congress’ 68 MPs in the Rajya Sabha and its mobilisation of Opposition parties has also thwarted the Centre’s attempts to get the land bill passed in the upper House, where the ruling coalition is in a minority.
Gandhi said the government had attacked the welfare of farmers by taking away the social impact clause and the consent clause in the NDA’s version of the land bill.
“The government snatched farmers’ rights by diluting the clause for getting their consent to acquire land. We had said if a piece of land hadn’t been used for five years, then the land will be returned. This government did away with the clause,” he said.
The Congress is hoping to use mounting anger across the country against the land bill to establish itself as a pro-poor party and re-connect with important voter bases, who deserted the party in recent years, resulting in a series of electoral reverses.
“This government is anti-farmer, anti-poor. This is a ‘suit-boot ki sarkar’. At one time leaders like Advaniji and Sushmaji were standing where I am right now and they said the same things I was saying. Now they are on the other side and I wonder what has changed,” Gandhi said.
The NDA has condemned what it calls the obstructionist tactics of the Opposition, especially the Congress, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi batting for the bill that he says will help both farmers and industrialists and boost the ease of doing business in India.