Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi kick-started his party's election push in Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday, launching a 2,500-km "kisan mahayatra" accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of "ignoring" their problems and promising a loan waiver, higher support price and reduction in power tariff. Starting the roadshow from this temple town in eastern Uttar Pradesh, where Assembly elections are due early next year and Congress is out of power for more than two decades, he said the campaign will seek to put pressure on Modi and his government to address farmers' problems.
"These governments (Centre and the state) have forgotten the farmers and labourers. They have not done anything about your problems and sorrow but we will. They have not done anything (for you), neither have they given any assurance.” "We neither have a government in Uttar Pradesh nor in New Delhi. But we share the sorrow of farmers and labourers as ours and we are going to fight it out with you," he told a congregation of farmers here. "I told Modiji to protect the farmers because they provide food to the country and to protect them there are three ways that you need to adopt.
The first is to waive their loans. If you remember when our government was there we waived Rs 70,000 crore of their loans.” "What is happening now is that last year, the Modi government waived loans of Rs 50,000 crore of big industrialists.” "If you want you can waive loans of big people, but why not waive the loans of farmers? Like we waived Rs 70,000 crore, you should also do for farmers. Modiji should waive loans of farmers of Uttar Pradesh and of the country," he said. The Congress Vice President said that farmers who came here have informed that the electricity bill is very high and it is giving pain to them.
He asked the state government to reduce it to half. Rahul also recalled how the Minimum Support Price (MSP) was raised during the Congress-led UPA government to help farmers get remunerative prices for their produce, which the Modi government has stopped doing now. "We helped the farmers, raised their MSP and the labour by providing them employment through MNREGA. The Modi government has stopped raising the MSP.”
"We have started this yatra to put pressure on Narendra Modji and Government of India and take farmers' problems, apathy and their fears to Modiji's ears. There will be more such sabhas across Uttar Pradesh. We will talk to farmers, hear and understand their sorrow and will make Modiji hear their plight," he told the farmers. The Congress leader also lamented that Deoria, once known as the "sugar bowl" of Uttar Pradesh with 17 sugar mills, was suffering now as all of them are now shut due to the indifference of Centre and the state government.
Interestingly, soon after the congregation of farmers ended, many of them were seen jostling with each other for cots that were laid for the farmers attending the sabha. Many of them were seen taking away the cots that the Congress party had bought to lay for the "khaat sabha".