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Rahul begins UP campaign, addresses farmers

Rahul Gandhi protesting against  the drug menace

Rudrapur (Deoria) : Rahul Gandhi today kick started his party’s election push in Uttar Pradesh,  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 the second thing that farmers who came here have told him is that the electricity bill is very high and it is giving pain to farmers and asked the government to reduce it to half.

“Why not halve the electricity bill,” he asked the state government.

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”.

Rahul said he had joined the farmers’ protest against land acquisition in Bhatta Parsaul and brought a new law to protect their land and ensure that they get market rate for their plots.

“The Congress party understands the sorrow of farmers. Modiji’s government came, made a lot of noise about farmers, vowed to protect them, but the sad thing is since the time his government assumed office, he has forgotten the farmers across the country,” the Congress Vice President told the farmers.

He said he had visited many states, including Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, to take stock of the farmers’ problems.

“It is simple, if you go into the economics of farmers in India, if you ask him how much he invested and how much he got in return, he will tell you he never gets back the amount of money he invests in his field. That is the truth of India’s farmers. So what does he do? He spends half the time in his own fields and half working as a labourer or thinks of migrating to the city.

“I asked Modji in Parliament as to why a farmers never get paid the market rate? Modiji did not reply. When a farmer gets Rs 40 for dal and it is sold for as high as Rs 200 in the market. While there is a lot of difference, it goes into neither farmer’s nor the purchaser’s pocket. This is going into the pocket of middlemen,” he said.

Accompanied by party colleague and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, he also started a door-to-door campaign from village Pachladi, meeting farmers and collecting “Kisan Maang Patras” outlining their demands.

“…Rahul ji came here and listened to us patiently. He collected details of my outstanding loan and also noted down my mobile number. He assured me that if Congress comes to power in the state, then his party will waive off farmers’ loans and slash power tariff by 50 per cent,” Om Prakash Singh, a farmer, told PTI.

The Gandhi scion also spoke to “our family members, especially children and asked about their studies and future plans,” another farmer said.

The ‘Deoria to Dilli yatra’ is part of the Congress campaign to end its 27-year exile from power in Uttar Pradesh.

On the first two days of the yatra, Rahul will cover Kushinagar, Gorakhpur, Sant Kabirnagar and Basti, besides Deoria.

He will make a night halt in Gorakhpur before embarking further on the journey. He will hold similar interactions with farmers and roadshows the next day and will spend the second night at Basti.

During the mahayatra, the Congress leader will cover as many as 233 Assembly constituencies to reach out to people ahead of crucial polls slated early next year.

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