Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday alleged that the Narendra Modi government was being “remote controlled” by a handful of corporate houses and the three farm laws were an example of Mr. Modi trying to “hand over” what belongs to farmers.
He said the Centre’s talks with farmers were “delaying tactics” to tire out the farmers as Mr. Modi does not respect farmers but the government would have to repeal the laws.
The Congress leader also took strong objection to farmers being referred to as “Khalistanis” by some leaders of the ruling party.
Speaking to reporters at Jantar Mantar, where Congress MPs from Punjab have been protesting for nearly 40 days now, Mr. Gandhi said the Supreme Court-appointed expert committee was a maya [illusion] and the myth will be busted soon.
To coincide with the ninth round of talks between farmers’ unions and the Centre, the Congress observed ‘Kisan Adhikar Diwas’ (Farmers’ Rights Day) and took out nationwide protests, including marches to gherao the Raj Bhavans in State capitals.
Party workers held protests in States, including Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. In Uttar Pradesh, the police detained party leaders when they attempted to take out a march to the Raj Bhavan in Lucknow.
In Delhi, Mr. Gandhi led the protests organised by the State unit and was joined by other leaders, including party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
“These farm laws have been brought to finish off the farmers,” Mr. Gandhi said in his brief address to party workers who had gathered near the Chandgi Ram Akhada in north Delhi, close to the Raj Bhavan, the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor.
Soon after, he shifted to the protest venue of Congress MPs at Jantar Mantar, where he addressed the media.
“Narendra Modi does not have basic respect for farmers. He does not even care if over 100 farmers die. He thinks he has the power and the protesting farmers will tire out after some days but they will not relent,” he said, adding,“The talks are being held only to delay. PM Modi thinks he has the power and will tire the farmers out, but he is mistaken.”
He said the farmers have maintained the country's independence by ensuring food security and the day food security is lost, the country will lose its independence.
“This is a financial issue, not a political issue. PM Modi wants to handover everything that farmers have to three-four corporate leaders...He is the country’s Prime Minister but the remote control is in the hands of three-four people,” Mr. Gandhi alleged.
Asked about objections being raised over the proposed tractor rally by protesting farmers on Republic Day, he said, “If farmers want to come out and take out a tractor parade on Republic Day, what is the harm in it?”
Party MLAs led by State Congress chief Sunil Jakhar took out a protest march from the Congress Bhawan in Chandigarh, and marched towards the Punjab Raj Bhawan, seeking the repeal of the three farm laws, but were stopped by the police.
Haryana Congress leaders, including the party’s State president Kumari Selja, Leader of the Opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda, and party general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala, led the party workers’ march towards the Hayana Raj Bhavan in support of farmers’ demands and their ongoing agitation.
“We want to bring a no-confidence motion against the government in the Assembly so that every farmer knows which MLA and party stands with them and the people and which ones stand with the government,” said Mr. Hooda.
The Chandigarh Police detained several protesters after they attempted to cross the barricades erected on the way to Raj Bhavans of Punjab and Haryana. All of them were later released.
In Shimla, capital of Himachal Pradesh, the protest was led by Congress State chief Kuldeep Singh Rathore.