12.50 pm: Sonia Gandhi follows Rahul's speech up with fiery critique of Modi
Sonia Gandhi in a fiery, aggressive speech against Prime Minister Modi, reiterated pretty much all the points that Rahul made, but did so with much for force and passion. From her body language, to her voice and intonation, Sonia eclipsed Rahul's hyped comeback speech and showed who is the real boss in the Congress.
"Kisaan, na dara hai, na darega (Farmers can't be scared)," she declared with force.
12.40 pm: Modi wants to use your land to pay back debts to corporate houses, says Rahul
"Do you know how Modi won the election?" asked Gandhi as there was a low growl of approval from the crowd. "He borrowed a lot of money from industrialists for his several campaigns and advertisements. These run into several hundred crores. How will he pay them back? He will pay them back with your land. He will give your land to his industrialist friends, his Make In India programme is a hogwash," Gandhi reiterated.
'Modi's Gujarat model had showed how easily he can snatch farmers' land," he added.
He then went on to question the amendments that the Modi government has moved in the Land Bill. "The original Land Bill had a provision which said that land will be returned to farmers if industrialists fail to begin work on the land acquired for projects. The government wants to change that clause. Why? Because he may say so, but he doesn't want to make anything in India. He wants to just acquire the land and give it to his industrialist friends. You will lose your land and no industry will come up, providing you proper employment. You will fall through the cracks," said Gandhi.
12.30 pm: Farmers are the lowest in Modi's list of priorities, says Rahul Gandhi
After propping the ego of farmers by commenting that much before IT and industries, it was the farmers who laid the foundation of the country, Gandhi sought to draw people's attention to Modi's anti-farmer policies. "They have reduced the subsidy on manure, they had slashed the budget of Kisaan Vikas Yojana by half, farmers' produce is lying in cold storage, no one is buying them, protesting farmers have been baton charged in Haryana," he said.
He mentioned a trip to Australia where he said he was confronted with the consequences of a pro-industry government. "I was taken to the biggest diamond mines in Australia. I asked them, who lived here? I was told, the land originally belonged to 300 farmer families. When I was made to meet them later, instead of prosperous people, I met poor labourers. They had given up their land and were left with no other livelihood except working as labourers in the mines made from their land," Rahul said, trying to paint a fairly intimidating picture of what would follow if farmers didn't protest Modi's Land Bill.
12.19 pm: 'This government is pro-industrialist, not pro-farmer, pro-poor'
For all you know, Rahul Gandhi was off hunting for a new speechwriter all these days! He starts off his much anticipated speech pretty directly, with no nonsensical metaphor clouding his message.
"The farmers and labourers in this country are feeling anxious. Because they now feel that the government has forgotten them. The government only remembers industrialists and corporate houses," he started off. "They are also scared because the Land Bill that we had created, they want to change that and snatch their privileges."
12.11 pm: Manmohan Singh kicks off Rahul Gandhi's rally
Here's the real surprise! Manmohan Singh kicks off the rally by pointing out how the Narendra Modi government is trying to deprive farmers of privileges that the Congress had given them. As Singh spoke, Rahul Gandhi looked on with great glee.
Meanwhile, the familiar face of Gandhi is back on TV. When he is not squinting at the audience, he is seen checking out a bunch of papers in his hand.
11.41 am: Rahul Gandhi leaves home, to meet Sonia Gandhi before reaching venue
The volume on ground at Ramlila Maidan and that in TV newsrooms are in the process of reaching a shrill peak, as the country waits for Rahul Gandhi to make his comeback speech. According to TV reports, Gandhi has already left for the venue, but will stop over to meet his mother.
Reports suggest that close to 1 lakh farmers have turned up at Ramlila Maidan to listen to Rahul Gandhi. Visuals on television show a sea of people thronging the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi. The crowd is dotted with pink and orange turbans, worn by farmers from different factions of the Congress. Reportedly, participants who are sporting the pink turban are supporters of Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
11.05 am: #KisaanVirodhiNarendraModi top trend on Twitter
As this update was being typed, the hashtag #KisaanVirodhiNarendraModi had started trending on Twitter and remained a top trend for a long time. With the Land Bill, the BJP has literally gifted the Opposition an issue to cry themselves hoarse over while slamming the Narendra Modi government. So much so, it has also provided the Congress with a perfect platform to even announce a 'comeback' of Rahul Gandhi - and you thought that was impossible!
It almost curious to see an anti-BJP, and specifically anti-Modi hashtag as the top trend on Twitter which is considered a favourable playing ground of the right of Centre in India. In the past, most trending hashtags were the ones that BJP supporters came up with and the Congress had literally no social media strategy or support.
However, this hashtag, necessitates an important question? Has the Congress had decided to take a headlong plunge into social media? Or have they cleverly chosen an issue that resonate among their own critics too?
And guess what, Modi's former fan boy Chetan Bhagat too has not spared him the hashtag!
Here are a few tweets in the thread:
— Sir Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhaqat) April 19, 2015
Is it fair to label #KisaanVirodhiNarendraModi, as this gov is screwing middle class also with higher service tax, cess, complex IT returns?
— Sir Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhaqat) April 19, 2015
Today all employees should side with d farmers as both have been kept in same page by new Govt. bank employees! #KisaanVirodhiNarendraModi
— Twahir Alam (@TwahirAlam) April 19, 2015
#KisaanVirodhiNarendraModi stop land grab ordinance promulgated only to satisfy likes of Adani!
— Siddharth (@mahajansid) April 19, 2015
— Geet Varun (@geetv79) April 19, 2015
— Rahul Pandey (@Rahul_Pandey_1) April 19, 2015
9.35 am: Congress isn't thrilled at the prospect of Rahul coming back
Amid speculation of a massive change at the helm in Congress after September, the Grand Old Party is set to re-launch its vice president Rahul Gandhi as a leader of the masses at Ramlila Maidan today. Sources in the party say the agitation around the NDA’s controversial Land Bill has so far “been successfully” led by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and it will be taken forward by Rahul. He is expected to lead the protest in Parliament as well.
“It is a clear indication that the party has decided to go ahead with its plan of promoting him to the post of president later this year,” a highly placed leader of the party told Firstpost. Sources also say that the “youth leader” wants a free hand to effect directional change in the Congress. It may result in “generational as well as organisational changes”. “Meanwhile, all senior leaders have been asked by the party’s high command to cooperate with him and help him strategize the party’s next course of action,” said a senior Congress leader.
“Several members of the old guard will be replaced with younger faces,” he added. Reacting to the expected change of guard, a very senior leader told Firstpost, “The reshuffle may prove game-changing or fatal for a party which wants to regain its lost ground.”
Rahul, according to party insiders, was to be anointed at a special session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) but it was put on hold because of his nearly two-month leave.
“Now, it will be done in September,” said another leader.
“Mrs Gandhi’s (Sonia Gandhi) acceptability within the party in unquestioned. She brought the entire Opposition on a single platform on the issue of the Land Bill and led a joint march to the President’s House. It is because of her that the party has managed to put the government on the defensive,” said a senior most general secretary of the party.
“Despite a string of electoral debacles, she has re-energised the party workers. Her recent visits to rural areas of neighbouring states affected by unseasonal rain have galvanised the party’s rank and file,” he said, adding that “...Rahul left the party embarrassed with his long absence from action”.
Ever since he started taking decisions on the party’s matters after being appointed as vice president of the party in 2013, many senior leaders have expressed their reservation on his style of functioning and decision-making. Some others such as Digvijaya Singh and Kamal Nath have openly said it is high time Rahul was elevated to the top job.
Meanwhile, unprecedented preparations have been undertaken for the rally at Ramlila Maidan, which is expected to witness a turnout of around 1 lakh to 1.5 lakh farmers from across the country.
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Updated Date: Apr 19, 2015 14:11:38 IST