NEW DELHI: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has vowed to fight any attempt to “weaken labour laws’’ by the government, just like his party resisted dilution of the land bill, for the sake of farmers.
Ironically, the one who kept him company when he gave a clarion call for a struggle against the proposed labour law reform from the INTUC platform was Manmohan Singh, former PM, with whom he had differences during UPA rule. As Rahul slammed the proposed amendments to labour laws as “anti-workers”, thundering about his party’s determination to be with Bharat’s kisan mazdoor. Singh watched, poker-faced, the unspooling of his 25-year-old agenda of wrenching the Indian economy from the grip of the Left-of-Centre policies of Soviet inspiration and the Indira era.
“Like we fought for the rights of farmers, we will fight for the cause of the workers and stand with them.... We will fight BJP, Modi and RSS,” he said, amid applause at the 31st Plenary Session of INTUC. Not since 1992, when P V Narasimha Rao had invited the trade union wing of the Congress, filled with powerful party satraps, to smoothen the path of his finance minister Singh’s reform agenda, had a top Congress leader addressed them. INTUC never got centre stage again, not in the Sonia-Manmohan era.
On Saturday though, Singh played along with Rahul. The “dissatisfaction” of workers with the “anti-labour and unimaginative” economic policies of the NDA, Singh said, “was obvious from the one-day general strike observed on September 2.”
The government must be hiccuping over the fate of the GST Bill in Rajya Sabha next week. Whether Singh was quietly advising his successor to avoid confrontation with trade unions was not apparent though Rahul’s stance was. Often told his political stance is seen as anti-corporate, Rahul claimed he had no disagreement with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s idea of making India a global manufacturing hub that competes with China.
But the unanimity ends there. The disagreement, he said, began with PM’s view of the Indian worker as a “dishonest shirker and one who could be made to work only by wielding the stick”. This, he said, was becoming evident from labour law reforms in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Haryana. “Labour laws are being diluted, so that workers come to their knees.’’
Gradually coming into his own in the absence of mother Sonia Gandhi, who is abroad for a health check-up, Rahul advised the Government to assume the role of ‘adjudicator’ between the industry and the workers.