Making a strong pitch for FDI in retail, Rahul Gandhi on Sunday said BJP, when in power, had sought to bring in foreign investment without adequate safeguards while UPA has taken strong measures to protect the interest of farmers.

“It was BJP, which first talked of FDI. They were weak-hearted. We are strong-hearted. So we did. But when we did it, they said no to it in Parliament,” the Congress general secretary said, addressing a well-attended rally at Ramlila Ground in New Delhi.

He made a strong case for economic reforms and said foreign direct investment in retail will benefit farmers, contrary to what the Opposition was claiming.

“If the poor have to progress, then FDI is needed, the economic reforms are needed,” he said.

“At a time when there is a positive atmosphere for the country and India has a standing in the world, the Opposition is engaged in opposing every measure of the government without giving a thought to it,” Mr. Gandhi said.

Underscoring the achievements of UPA, Mr. Gandhi said the rural employment guarantee scheme had benefited people across the country and the Right to Information (RTI) Act had helped tackle corruption.

Exhorting the youth to join politics, Mr. Gandhi, who is expected to take up a larger role in the party, said change could not be ushered into the country till the youth join the political system.

He said the current political system needs to provide a more active role to people belonging to weaker and underprivileged sections of the society.

“Unless we open the doors for the common man, we cannot develop,” he said.

Mr. Gandhi said the UPA government would ensure passage of the Lokpal Bill in Parliament while accusing BJP of stalling the approval of the anti-corruption measure.

“We will get the (Lokpal) bill passed in Parliament soon. The Opposition had stalled the Lokpal Bill in the earlier sessions of Parliament. But we will bring it again,” Mr. Gandhi said.

He accused the Opposition parties of “lying” to farmers about FDI in multi-brand retail.

Mr. Gandhi contended that the FDI policy would benefit farmers immensely as it would bring in cold storage facilities and food processing centres, thereby ensuring more profits to them.

“The Opposition parties have been lying about the FDI policy to the farmers, particularly in Himachal Pradesh. The FDI will bring cold storage facilities and food processing centres closer to the farmers. They will immensely benefit from these,” he said.

Mr. Gandhi said UPA government was planning to bring in the food security law and an effective land acquistion policy which would benefit the common man.

“We want to ensure that poor do not sleep empty stomach. We want to ensure the poor farmers’ lands are not taken away,” he said.

He said the Opposition parties were against the policies of the government just for the sake of opposition

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