Aligarh: Speaking for
farmers' rights and against alleged police atrocities on them, Rahul Gandhi, a potential future prime minister of India, Saturday
kick-started the Congress party's poll campaign in Mayawati's
Uttar Pradesh that faces assembly elections next year.
And the target of the 41-year-old Congress general secretary's
brief speech in Hindi to thousands of his supporters in an Aligarh
ground was Chief Minister Mayawati's government.
Addressing a kisan mahapanchayat here at the end of a five-day
long march, that took him through 25 villages to discuss land
acquisition issues, Gandhi alleged that the state government was
firing bullets at the farmers "demanding their genuine right of
proper compensation in lieu of their land acquired for
Gandhi kept the 15,000-strong crowd, mostly of farmers, waiting
longer than expected. He was supposed to arrive at the venue by 11
a.m., but when he finally arrived at around 1.45 p.m., his
supporters rose from their seats as one to greet their loved
Gandhi waved and smiled before he addressed the supporters who had
wilted in the heat, humidity and then battled the nearly 40-minute
of heavy rains that threatened to wash away the much-talked about
The rally at Aligarh's Numaish Maidan, in the heart of this
teeming city, marked the end of the Congress leader's long march
from the twin villages of Bhatta-Parsaul through the controversial
Yamuna Expressway - the roadlink that is at the centre of the
storm of farmers' agitation.
"Farmers," Gandhi said, "are not against development."
"All they want is proper rates for the acquired land. Uttar
Pradesh farmers are angry because they say if rich people in Delhi
and Noida want to sell their land they get market rates but when
they demand the same they get bullets."
He said the central government was bringing in a new pro-farmers
land acquisition law in the Lok Sabha soon.
"But mere amending laws won't help. I want your participation in
talks before we frame the law," he told the gathering amid loud
cheers and slogans in his favour.
He said the central government had implemented the rural job
guarantee act for poor farm labourers who could benefit from the
government's "overall inclusive development programmes".
"But the Uttar Pradesh government refused to implement it because
they said it was useless," he said, and also mentioned about the
central government's food security bill that will ensure right to
food for every Indian.
Though Gandhi didn't talk about next years' election in his speech
but other speakers, particularly farmer leaders, did so
"In 2012 elections, please mark your stamp on the hand (the
Congress) election symbol," said Jasbir Singh, a farmer leader
from Bhatta-Parsaul. Others praised the Congress leader as the
"second Mahatma Gandhi in making".
The 2012 Uttar Pradesh elections are significant for the Congress
because the party in the last few decades has become somewhat
irrelevant in India's most populous state that is also the
Nehru-Gandhi family's home base.
"The UP election results will have a lot of bearing on the
political standing of Gandhi, who is a potential future prime
minister of India. He has groomed himself for the role," a state
Congress leader told IANS, asking that he not be identified.
The Congress leader was accompanied by union ministers Sachin
Pilot, Jitin Prasada - from his party team, Salman Khurshid and
firebrand party leader Digvijay Singh.
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