New Delhi: Projecting the government as "anti-farmer" and "pro industrialist", Congress on Sunday declared full scale war over the Land Acquisition Bill with Rahul Gandhi accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of bringing ordinance to pay back 'loan' of industrialists.
The Congress vice president, who has just returned from a two-month absence, said the new land bill is not only against the interests of farmers but also the tribals.
"I'll tell you how Modi ji won the election. He took loans of thousands of crores from big industrialists from which his marketing was done. How will he pay back that loan now? He will do it by giving your land to those top industrialists. He wants to weaken the farmers, then snach their land and give it to his industrialist friends," he said addressing a farmers' rally in New Delhi.
"Through the Gujarat model, Modi ji showed that he can snatch the land of farmers quite easily and convinced the industrialists that he can do the same in the whole country. This is Modi's model -- weaken the foundation, then attach a ladder to the building, paint it and show to the world that the building is shining," Rahul said.
Party president Sonia Gandhi accused the Modi government of adding insult to the injury of farmers by bringing the Land ordinance.
Promising to fight for the farmers' cause without making any compromises, she said, "Modi government's attitude is totally against the farmers, the helpless and the poor. We have got a new energy here and we will fight for the poor and the weak.
"We will not allow those forces to succeed, who want to destroy the legacy of our freedom. We will fight without any fear against such forces. We might be out of power but we will not allow any leniency in our efforts in this direction," the Congress president said.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh said the new government had brought the land bill to hurt the interests of the farmers as he alleged that Modi had "sold dreams" to farmers and youth to win Lok Sabha polls.
At the well-attended rally, the Congress vice president, who had in 2011 launched an agitation on land issue from Bhatta Parsaul in Uttar Pradesh, made a strong pitch for pro-poor politics as Congress leaders sought to paint the Modi government as anti-farmer and pro-industrialist.
Referring to the 2011 agitation which had culminated into the passage of UPA's land bill in 2013 and his stir in Niyamgiri hills in Odisha to oppose the acquisition of tribals' land, Rahul launched a full throttle attack on Modi government for trying to change its provisions.
He alleged that the government wants to change the rules of the previous land law as it wants to "snatch" the land of farmers while there is no possibility of the 'Make in India' plan of the government to generate employment.
"Today the farmers and the labourers feel that the government of India has forgotten them. They feel that the government belongs only to the industrialists and not to farmers. They are scared due to the fact that the BJP is trying to change that bill.
"Much before IT and industries, it is the farmers who laid the foundation of whatever has been built in the country. Today they are scared. The Government should function for the poor. The farmers have built the nation with their sweat and blood," he said.
Recalling that BJP leaders in Parliament were thumping the desk when the UPA's land bill was passed in 2013, the Congress vice president questioned, "Why are they trying to bring a new bill through ordinance now? I want to ask them what difference has come between then and now? Why the BJP and the NDA government are not listening to the voice of farmers."
Gandhi also accused the government of not coming to the help of farmers affected by hailstorms and unseasonal rains and trying to weaken the farmers in general.
Recalling his visit to a diamond mine in Australia, where he saw the actual owners of the land of the mine being reduced to the status of labourers, the Congress vice president warned the farmers against land acquisition saying they will lose both land and livelihood.
Listing the initiatives taken by the UPA government for the farmers and the poor including loan waiver of farmers, MNREGA, Right to Food and Bundelkhand package, the Congress vice president alleged that the NDA government is trying to weaken the schemes brought for their welfare.
"Congress will firmly stand with farmer and workers, wherever their land is being snatched.... As we won in Niyamgiri and as we brought the land bill in 2013, we will win this also.
"I will stand with you. Development is required but farmers are also needed. We do not want an India where few people get everything and farmers get nothing. Congress will fight for you," he said.
Sonia Gandhi said that farmers have gathered at the Kisan rally of Congress to give a message that it's now enough.
"We are not going to allow the interests of farmers and labourers to be crushed in this manner," the Congress chief said as she attacked Modi saying that people of the country have understood his "hollow promises" and real "design".
Alleging that Modi government made minimal increase in the Minimum Support Price and did away with bonus on farmers'crops, the Congress President said that there is a "huge gap between the words and the deeds" of the prime minister and the BJP.
"See the callousness of Modi government. While on one hand farmers' crops are damaged due to unseasonal rains and hailstorms, the announcement of relief made by his government amounts to virtually nothing.
"It seems as if an attempt is being made to add insult to injury. Funding to schemes started by our government has been cut down," she said.
The Congress president also accused Modi government of "misleading" farmers through its defence of changes in the land bill and charged that the provisions that were to safeguard the interests of farmers have been done away with to benefit industrialists and builders.
"Where have those people gone, who used to make pep talks during elections. It was the same prime minister, who used to say that he wants to take the country forward by taking along everybody. This law is going to damage not only farmers but also tribals.... Is this their intent and policy. Modi government's attitude is totally against farmers and the poor," he said.
Reeling under its worst-ever debacle in the 2014 general elections, where it was reduced to 44 seats in the Lok Sabha and did not get even the Leader of Opposition status, Congress sensed a big opportunity for agitational politics after the NDA brought the land ordinance in December last year effecting key changes in the earlier bill.
At the Jantar Mantar rally on 25 February, former rural development minister Jairam Ramesh had drawn a parallel etween the land bill agitation and the comeback trail of Congress that had begun after its Chikmaglur victory in 1978 in a political re-birth for Indira-Gandhi.
Indira Gandhi had won the seat in 1978 one year after she had lost from her turf Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh in the anti-Emergency wave.