New Delhi : The Congress president Sonia Gandhi has sharpened the contours of the on-going political battle over the Land Acquisition Bill 2014. In a strong six-page detailed letter to the union road transport minister Nitin Gadkari, in which she has responded to his call for a public debate, the Congress president has made it clear that the party would not relent in its opposition to the law and called upon the government to go back to the 2013 law.
“I wish to reiterate that the 2013 law is not a legacy of just the Congress party. It is a legacy of all parties – including the BJP – which gave their suggestions and came together for a landmark legislation to give primacy to the interests of farmers and labourers. This explains why opposition to this amended legislation comes not just from the Congress and the like-minded parties, but also from constituents of the NDA,”she has said in her reply.
Asserting that the farmers are the backbone of our country, and their interests have to be protected at any cost, Gandhi observed that this demand is non-negotiable for her party. “We shall never endorse any law that will break the backbone of this nation,” she added while calling upon the government to rise above the realm of partisan politics.
Almost summarily rejecting all the arguments out forth by Gadkari, the Congress president chided the government for its unabashed display of half-truths and misrepresentations.
“I should not, of course, be surprised because this is typical of your government when it runs out of logical and convincing arguments,” she said in a mocking tone.
Referring to the government’s claims that the changes proposed by it are on the grounds that these promote the interests of villages, the poor, farmers and labourers, and facilitate irrigation, employment, industrial corridors and the defence industry, the Congress president wrote:” Your arguments are designed to suggest that this is a new contribution that the Narendra Modi government is making, in contrast with the record of the UPA government, and that those opposing your legislation are anti-farmer and anti-national. Regrettably, all that you have said is without any foundation whatsoever. The UPA’s and Congress Party’s record on all these issues is second to none. And, it is now being widely recognized that your government is blatantly anti-farmer and anti-poor, compromising the rights of the weaker sections of society to benefit a handful of private parties.”
She has also charged that the government’s position on defence, irrigation and electrification issues is a blatant attempt to divert attention from its anti-farmer amendments. “There can be no two opinions that the country absolutely needs to enhance its irrigation potential, build more indigenous defence factories and further improve rural infrastructure. But this cannot be at the cost of pushing farmers into a pitiable condition or destroying their livelihoods. In the 2013 Act these issues were actively dealt with in order to facilitate rural infrastructure and defence industry, without sacrificing the interest of farmers,” she has argued.
At the party’s press briefing, spokesperson Rita Bahuguna also questioned the credentials of Nitin Gadkari in writing the letter. ‘‘He does not hold the rural development ministry. So why is he getting into this debate,” she asked.