NEW DELHI: Taking a sharp Left turn, the Congress in its Sunday ‘victory rally’ in Delhi’s historic Ramlila grounds re-positioned itself as a party which would act as a roadblock if the Modi government espouses unbridled free-market economy, like it had done on the Land Acquisition Ordinance and Amendment Bill.
The withdrawal of the thrice-promulgated executive order on land acquisition by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is what the Congress was celebrating as victory — a result of protests mounted by farmers and other opposition parties. “It is not the victory of any individual, but that of the annadata (provider of food/farmers), who are also our bhagya-vidhata (lord of our destiny),” said Sonia Gandhi, in a marked shift in rhetoric.
The battle cry in Delhi, against the backdrop of the Bihar polls, was surprisingly unambiguous. Not because the Congress chose to call its second rally in the last five months — ‘Kisan (Mazdoor) Samman Rally’, but because of the message — which looked like a conscious abandoning of its centrist position. At the rally, Rahul heaped scorn on the ‘Make in India’ initiative terming it ‘Take from India’ in which the kisan-mazdoor have no role to play, except in losing their land and jobs.
Or their health and education worries.
If Rahul heaped scorn on the ‘Make in India’ initiative terming it ‘Take from India’ in which the ‘kisan-mazdoor’ have any role to play, except in losing their land and jobs, Sonia made it known that the “Congress will oppose decisions, (which it feels) are against the interest of the farmers and workers.”
The PM, she quipped, did not initially realise the gravity of the agitation against the “land bill”.
Alluding to the farmer’s plough and the Congress symbol, she added, but when the “hull” and the “haath” got together it was a force multiplier that shook the government.
Speaking before Sonia, Rahul too waxed eloquent on dharti-maata being the only anchor in an Indian farmer’s life and their fear about land acquisition stemmed from their filial relation with the land. “It is not only (about) the land, but about the farmer’s honour,” he added. The Congress no doubt is het up about what it perceives as a systematic dismantling of the Nehru legacy by the incumbent government, but in its political response was more in tune with the Indira-era.
Manmohan Singh was on stage and spoke in between Rahul and Sonia, but it was quite clear that his party has almost given up on his two-and-a-half-decade-old economic liberalisation policy and seemed uninterested in allowing it run the course or reach a logical conclusion.
“If development means benefiting a few persons, we will definitely act as a roadblock in such development,” Sonia said, predicating Modi’s attack on the Congress as “anti-development” thus. “The Congress will act as an obstacle in their way whenever they stop giving an ear to people’s problems, whenever farmers do not get minimum support price and the drought and flood hit are left to the mercy of God…” her loaded speech, left space for a middle-ground. But the declaration of the victory was qualified, in the sense that both Rahul and Sonia warned the farmers and the State leaders of the Congress that the fight on the land issue was not over, but has shifted to the State assemblies.
“The Prime Minister has asked the states to draft their own land laws. We’ve to be watchful, it could be brought in from the backdoor,” Rahul said, which was later reiterated by his mother.
Among the senior leaders, A K Antony was the only one who spoke other than Manmohan, Sonia and Rahul and the PCC chiefs. The Congress politics was played on the other side of the dais as well. Former Haryana chief minister Bhupindra Singh Hooda’s pink-turbaned Jat-supporters booed and heckled the same State’s Dalit PCC chief, Ashok Tanwar.
End of the rally, Tanwar’s red-turbaned supporters had fist-fights with pink-turbaned Hooda backers. No casualty though.