Prime Minister Narendra Modi is "not bothered" about what is happening in the country and he only "protects his image", Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Tuesday as he attacked the Centre on the new farm laws. Gandhi was in Punjab as part of his three-day 'Kheti Bachao Yatra', during which held a series of tractor rallies, to protest against the three new agriculture-related laws, which, he claimed, will not only affect farmers but also consumers.
The Centre has asserted that the laws will be beneficial for farmers and increase their income. Claiming that several institutions, including the media, that protect the voice of the people have been "captured" by the BJP-led Centre, Gandhi said, "Give me free press and institutions which are free, this government will not last for long." The prime minister does not understand these farm laws, the Congress leader alleged on the final day of his yatra in Punjab and dared Modi to come to the state and stand with farmers if these new legislations were in the interest of the farming community. Gandhi also raised the Ladakh standoff issue while addressing the media here. He claimed that Modi had said no one "snatched" India's land. Then how was "1,200 square km" taken away by China, the Congress leader asked without substantiating his claim.
"They talk of 'Bharat Mata', but Narendra Modi gave 1,200 square km of 'Bharat Mata' to China to protect his image. It is a reality," he alleged. Gandhi suggested that the media should call the prime minister to a press conference and talk to him openly.
"Why is he scared of you Modi ji is only interested in his image. He will go to (Atal) tunnel alone and then waive. The media, on which there is full monopoly, will show it. So, he has an obsession with his image only. What is happening in India, he is not bothered about it," he said. Prime Minister Modi on Saturday inaugurated the strategically important all-weather Atal Tunnel at Rohtang in Himachal Pradesh.
To a question on a weak Opposition in the country, Gandhi said the Opposition functions within a framework that includes the media, the judicial system and institutions that protect the voice of the people. "In India, this entire framework that protects the voice of the people has been captured. The entire architecture has been captured and then to say that the opposition is weak is not a correct statement, he said. "Give me a free press and institutions that are free, this government will not last long," Gandhi said.
The BJP-led government at the Centre has captured the "soul" of the country, he said and accused it of destroying the food security system with the three "black laws". He said if farmers were to benefit from these farm laws, then why did the prime minister not debate on this in Parliament. "Why were the bills passed when he knew farmers would not be able to come out during the coronavirus pandemic," Gandhi asked. "Why does not Modi ji hold a press conference like this and say these (laws) are in farmers' interest. Why does he not come to Punjab and stand with farmers and say this," he said.
The Congress leader said that with these laws, not only farmers but consumers would also be affected. Gandhi was flanked by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh who informed the media that his government will soon bring a special session to scuttle these legislations.
These laws are crafted to "destroy not just farmers but the entire agricultural system, and the state", Singh claimed. President Ram Nath Kovind has given his assent to the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and the Farm Services Bill; and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, which were passed by Parliament last month. Gandhi said he was committed to fighting against the Modi government's attack on farmers. The government had earlier targeted SMEs and small traders with demonetisation and GST, he said. "I will fight them and stop them," Gandhi said, pointing out that without minimum support price, Punjab, Haryana, and other agricultural states like Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan will have no future left. Taking a dig at the BJP for criticising him for sitting on a 'gaddi' (cushion) on a tractor, Gandhi quipped that the prime minister's 'Air India One' did not just have a cushion but a whole lot of luxury beds for his comfort.
"Why don't you question them about this," Gandhi asked the media in response to a question about him sitting on a 'gaddi' on a tractor during his Punjab 'Kheti Bachao Yatra'. He accused the prime minister for "wasting" thousands of crores of rupees on the plane just because "his friend Donald Trump (US President) has one (Air Force One)".
It is strange that nobody is seeing or questioning the VVIP Boeing 777 purchased for this whopping amount, but everyone is being quick to point to the 'gaddi', the Congress leader said without giving a specific amount. He said that some well-wishers had put the cushion. On BJP's claims that the farm laws, just like demonetisation and GST, were major achievements of the Modi government, Gandhi told the media to go and ask small traders and businessmen, and farmers, whether they considered these actions to be accomplishments or failures.
"If the farm laws are an achievement, then why are the farmers not celebrating, why are they not bursting firecrackers with joy," he asked. Gandhi slammed the Modi government for "destroying" key systems such as SMEs and small businesses.
They have "ruined" the structure of employment by "destroying" small and medium businesses and now they are "destroying" the foundations of agriculture, he said. Calling the existing food security system a fortress for farmers, Gandhi said it had needed improvement and reforms, which is what the Congress manifesto had also promised.