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At farmers' rally, Rahul throws poll gauntlet at Mayawati

Saturday July 09, 2011 07:02:33 PM, Sarwar Kashani, IANS

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 development".

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 leader.

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 "kisan mahapanchayat".

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 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".

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.

(Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at










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