Sunday, July 10, 2011

Rallying for farmers, Rahul targets Mayawati by 'kisan mahapanchayat'.

Aligarh, July 9 (IANS) Congress leader Rahul Gandhi Saturday spoke out against police atrocities and land acquisition by the Mayawati government at a mammoth farmers' rally that marked the end of a 'long march' through Uttar Pradesh villages ahead of next year's assembly polls.

He alleged that the state government was firing bullets at farmers 'demanding their genuine right of proper compensation in lieu of their land acquired for development'.

'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.'

Before reaching Aligarh, the Congress general secretary trekked through 25 villages, meeting farmers, sleeping and eating with them in their modest homes. He had started Tuesday from the twin villages of Bhatta-Parsaul and made his way through the controversial Yamuna Expressway - the roadlink that is at the centre of the storm of farmers' agitation.

At the rally in Numaish Maidan in the heart of this teeming city, the target of the 41-year-old's speech in Hindi here was clearly Chief Minister Mayawati.

Gandhi waved and smiled before he addressed the nearly 15,000 supporters who had wilted in the heat, humidity and then battled nearly 40 minutes of heavy rains that threatened to wash away the much-talked about 'kisan mahapanchayat'.

Gandhi kept the crowd waiting longer than expected. He was supposed to arrive at the venue by 11 a.m., but reached at 1.45 p.m.

It seemed to be a launching pad for the Congress' campaign to dislodge Mayawati in the next year's assembly polls. The state sends the maximum number of MPs to the Lok Sabha.

Gandhi compared the land acquisition policy of Congress-ruled Haryana with that of the Mayawati government and said farmers in Uttar Pradesh were not even informed when their lands were acquired.

Gandhi 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.

Gandhi said the central government was bringing in a new pro-farmer 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, mostly of farmers, amid loud cheers and slogans in his favour.

Gandhi was accompanied by union ministers Sachin Pilot, Jitin Prasada and Salman Khurshid, and party leader Digvijay Singh. He held the rally in Aligarh after being denied permission by the Mayawati government to hold it in Bhatta-Parsaul.

Though Gandhi didn't talk about next year's assembly election, others, particularly farmer leaders, did so unambiguously.

'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'.
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