Buoyed by the success of its electoral promise on farm loan waiver in three states, the Congress on Tuesday played the farmers’ card to the hilt with party president Rahul Gandhi calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi anti-farmer and vowing to not let him sleep till all farm loans in the country are waived.
Reaching out to distressed farmers from Parliament House complex here, Mr Gandhi told reporters, “Modi ji has been Prime Minister for four-and-a-half years but has not waived a single rupee of farmers’ loans. I want to tell you that the Congress and other Opposition parties will unite till all farm loans are waived. We will stand up and fight against them, we will not retract a single inch, we will not let him (PM) sleep at night till the time Indian farmers’ loans are waived.”
“If the Modi government does not waive farm loans, we guarantee to waive farm loans if voted to power in 2019,” said Mr Gandhi on Twitter, signalling the Congress’ plan to make farm loan waiver a key poll plank in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Mr Gandhi’s fresh offensive against Mr Modi angered the BJP which said that the Congress president’s remark on not allowing the Prime Minister to sleep represents a “new low” in the country’s public discourse. The ruling party described the Congress’ efforts to address farm distress as “drama” and questioned the Opposition party’s 60-year track record in farmers’ welfare. Earlier, Mr Gandhi told reporters after Parliament proceedings that two new Congress chief ministers have kept their word on farm loan waiver.
“We promised to waive loans in 10 days. In two states, we did it within six hours and we will do it in the third state very soon,” he said.
The Congress governments in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh waived off farm loans within a day of taking charge. The new government in Rajasthan is also likely to take a similar decision in the coming days.
Targeting the Modi government for allegedly ignoring farm distress and promoting a few industrialists, Mr Gandhi said, “I want to give this message and tell the farmers that this country is yours and not of 15-20 industrialists. That injustice is being done to you, despite the hard work and toil that help provide food to the country… We have done it in three states and we will exert pressure on Narendra Modi to waive farm loans.” Reacting to Mr Gandhi’s “won’t let the Prime Minister sleep” comment, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that nothing better can be expected from the Congress president whose party ensured that Indians did not sleep during its 60 years of rule due to rampant corruption.
“Friends, I am given to understand that Rahul Gandhi today said that he will not allow Prime Minister Narendra Modi to sleep. This is a new low in the public discourse of the country,” Mr Prasad told reporters.
Referring to Mr Gandhi addressing the issue of farmer distress and saying that the Congress and other Opposition parties will ensure that all farm loans are waived, Mr Prasad said that this is just “drama”. He said that the Congress had been in power for about 60 of the last 70 years. “What have they done for farmers? They are doing just drama now,” he said.
Meanwhile, the All India Kisan Sabha, which has been at the forefront of the farmers’ agitation, announced it plan to hold Gramin Bandh over farmers’ issues on January 8-9.
“We will organise a ‘Gramin Bandh’ which will be spread across rural India,” said AIKS general secretary Hannan Mollah.