Rahul Gandhi kicks-off ‘Kheti Bachao’ yatra in Punjab against farm bills

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi sharpened his attack on the Centre over its farm liberalisation plans on Sunday, alleging that corporate houses were setting the agenda for the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP)-ruled government.

After launching ‘Kheti Bachao Yatra’, a three-day protest march involving about 3,000 tractors at the rally venue, Gandhi said the Congress party stood firmly with the agrarian community and will fight against the three controversial farm legislations, passed in Parliament’s monsoon session.

“A couple of chosen corporate houses are issuing diktats to the central government on policy formation. Lands of farmers in states such as Punjab and Haryana, that have contributed significantly to the national food security for decades, are now facing the threat of acquisition by the powerful corporate houses,” the former Congress president said in Moga.

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While expressing solidarity with farmers against three farm laws enacted by the Centre, the Congress also tried to show the united face of the state leadership on Sunday.

Sulking Amritsar East MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu, a political bete noire of the chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh, attended party function after several months. The former cricketer was invited to address the gathering.

As all 31 farmers’ associations are protesting against the central rules from a non-political platform for the last days, the Congress leadership tried to convey a message of agrarian support in organising the event starting today.

Gandhi also released ‘Kisan Mazdoor Ekta Flag’. The venue of the rally at a grain market was well attended by villagers, including women who registered their opposition to the new farm laws.

Though the huge political cutouts were missing at the venue, people waited for over three hours when the first political event since lockdown on March 22 started past 1 pm today.

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At Sunday’s rally held in the shadow of Covid-19, villagers had come to the rally in large numbers of private buses from Moga and adjoining districts of Bathinda, Barnala and Ferozepur. Key Covid-19 guidelines of maintaining physical distancing and covering faces were flouted by the audience at the event organised by the ruling political dispensation.

The Wayanad MP tried to connect with the rural audience while stating that the Narendra Modi government wants to dismantle the well-established agricultural marketing system with new rules.

“Farmers of Punjab and others have expressed rejections of rules by holding demonstrations. If voted to power, the Congress party will trash these rules. These legislations are a direct hit on the economy of the farming sector,” he added.

The BJP-ruled central government rejects the Congress’s charges that the new farm laws will benefit corporate entities, and argues that the legislation will usher in reforms in the agriculture sector and benefit farmers. The BJP also accuses Opposition parties of politicising the issue and misleading farmers.

Earlier, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh urged Gandhi to bring farmers at the national level under one roof for an organised protest against the Centre.

He lashed out at the Akalis for selling off the interests of the farmers as part of the Union government with Bathinda MP Harsimrat Badal being party to the decision as a cabinet minister. He said the Centre might pay the MSP for a couple of crops, but eventually would scrap the system completely.

“The Congress will fight back unless the black laws on farm sector are withdrawn,” said the CM.

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