In what was being perceived as the beginning of a fresh round of confrontation between the Congress and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi launched his “kisan sandesh yatra” from Bhatta and Parsaul villages in Greater Noida in Gautam Buddha Nagar (Noida) district on Tuesday.
During his day-long “padyatra” in Bhatta-Parsaul and neighbouring villages coming under the Jevar block, sans the usual presence of party workers and leaders, the Congress general secretary reached out to the farmers on a one-to-one basis and reportedly lent a sympathetic ear to their woes, related mainly to land acquisition.
Mr. Gandhi's second visit to Bhatta-Parsaul after the one on May 11 following the farmers-police clash on May 6 and the subsequent goof-up on the number of casualties, came in the wake of the Noida district administration denying permission to the Congress for holding a kisan ‘mahapanchayat' in Bhatta-Parsaul, or in neighbouring areas on July 9. The ‘mahapanchayat' will now be held in Aligarh on the same date.
Mr. Gandhi's earlier visit to Bhatta-Parsaul was dismissed as a political stunt by the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister.
Even as reports said the Congress general secretary's mass contact with the farmers of western Uttar Pradesh would continue for the next three days in Noida, Agra and Aligarh districts to coincide with the mahapanchayat on July 9, AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh said in Lucknow that it was for Mr. Gandhi to decide.
Lauding Mr. Gandhi's efforts to establish contact with the farmers, Mr. Singh told journalists at the Pradesh Congress headquarters that Mr. Gandhi wanted to know the farmers' viewpoint on the land acquisition policy of the State government, as well as on the changes proposed in the Land Acquisition Act. Mr. Singh noted that the usual fanfare associated with Mr. Gandhi's visit to Bhatta and Parsaul (as was evident when he last visited the villages on May 11) was missing this time.
“It is a great effort on Mr. Gandhi's part to know about the problems of the farmers and he is undertaking the padyatra with the villagers. There are no party workers, or activists with him,” Mr. Singh said. The AICC general secretary said the Congress had demanded a judicial inquiry into the Bhatta-Parsaul violence, but the demand was rejected by the Mayawati government. The Congress then sought permission for a kisan mahapanchayat in Bhatta-Parsaul or neighbouring areas where the farmers' anger was brewing over the land acquisition policy of the State government, Mr. Singh added.