Rahul Gandhi promises GST exemption, loan waiver for farmers; offer prayers at Trimbakeshwar

The Congress leader compared farmers with soldiers, and stated that if India’s “jawans and kisans” are not safeguarded the country cannot progress

Updated - March 14, 2024 08:12 pm IST

Published - March 14, 2024 01:51 pm IST - Nashik

Rahul Gandhi offers prayers at Shri Trimbakeshwar, one of the 12 Jyotirlingas, a major worship site for Lord Shiva, in Maharashtra on Thursday.

Rahul Gandhi offers prayers at Shri Trimbakeshwar, one of the 12 Jyotirlingas, a major worship site for Lord Shiva, in Maharashtra on Thursday. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday took potshots at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for working only for ‘media attention’ through actions like performing undersea pooja, flying on aircraft and visiting Pakistan and China borders while neglecting the urgent issues faced by farmers, including loan waiver for agrarian and export and import policies.

He pledged that the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc would champion farmers’ rights if elected, vowing to exempt them from GST and work on only one tax, revamp crop insurance, and ensure a fair minimum support price (MSP).

Addressing a ‘Shetkari Sammelan’ (farmers’ conference) at Nashik’s Chandwad as part of the ongoing Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, he said, “We will exclude farmers from GST and restructure crop loan insurance schemes your [farmers’] benefit. We will be the ‘voice of farmers’ and frame policies to protect you.”

The grand old party’s ally Nationalist Congress Party (SP) supremo Sharad Pawar and Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut joined the former Congress president in his yatra.

He greeted the farmers with ‘Rama Rama Mandali’ and reaffirmed the Congress’ pledge to enact a legal guarantee for MSP, citing recommendations from the Swaminathan committee report, and their [INDIA bloc] government’s doors would always be open for farmers.

“The issues of farmers, inflation, unemployment, and Agniveers are the most prominent in the country today, you will never see TV channels discuss these issues. Instead, you see Mr. Modi going under the sea to do a pooja, taking a flight a seaplane, or at times visiting borders,” he stated.

Highlighting economic disparities, Mr. Gandhi criticised the Prime Minister Modi government’s ‘favouritism’ towards a few industrialists, alleging that ₹16 lakh crore in debts were waived for them, an amount equivalent to 24 years of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.

He juxtaposed this with the UPA government’s previous ₹70,000 crore debt waiver for farmers, arguing for equitable treatment across sectors. “If the loans of rich people can be written off, farmers also should get the benefit,” the Wayanad MP said, asking the farmers if their crop loan was waived to which they replied in the negative.

Mr. Gandhi repeated most of his speech from the previous meetings in Nandurbar, Dhule and Malegaon, highlighting that only 20 to 25 industrialists in the country hold wealth equivalent to that of the 70 crore population.

He also scrutinised the Agnipath scheme, pointing out disparities in benefits for soldiers and farmers, stating that crucial roles both play in the nation’s security and progress. “Like soldiers who protect our country’s borders, farmers protect citizens within the country. If we don’t safeguard our ‘jawans and kisans’, the country cannot progress,” he said.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addresses during farmers meeting at Krushi Utpanna Bazar Samiti, in Nashik, Thursday, March 14, 2024.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addresses during farmers meeting at Krushi Utpanna Bazar Samiti, in Nashik, Thursday, March 14, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

Echoing Mr. Gandhi’s sentiments, Mr. Pawar condemned the Central government’s indifference towards farmers’ struggles, stressing the need to defeat anti-farmer policies. “Due to lack of a proper price for their produce, farmers are debt-ridden and committing suicide. The UPA government had waived ₹70,000 crore farmers loan,” the former Union Agriculture Minister said.

Later, on Thursday evening, he addressed a public meeting in Nashik and performed pooja at Shri Trimbakeshwar, one of the 12 Jyotirlingas, a major worship site for Lord Shiva. Mr. Gandhi’s yatra entered Maharashtra on Tuesday in its last leg from Gujarat and will culminate on March 16 at Mumbai’s Chaityabhoomi, where B.R. Ambedkar was cremated. On the following day, the INDIA bloc leaders will address a public rally at Shivaji Park, which will mark the kick-starting of the MVA’s poll campaign.

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