An aggressive Congress and the party-led United Progressive Alliance government worked in cohesion on Thursday to attack Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati from both the AICC as well as the newly-constituted Group of Ministers' platform, set up to bridge the 'information deficit.'
After party general secretary Rahul Gandhi stole the show from other opposition leaders in UP over the farmers' agitation and his dramatic arrest in Greater Noida, making it a direct confrontation between the Congress and the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party in the run-up to the assembly elections next year, an upbeat Congress forced Mayawati on the backfoot where she had to respond to its charges on the acquisition of land by the state government from the farmers.
The Congress rebuffed Mayawati's tirade by calling her "insensitive, autocratic, corrupt and anti-development" and responded to her only substantive criticism of the Centre -- by promising to pass the new Land Acquisition Act in the next session of Parliament.
The Congress also alleged that the police had ransacked houses, assaulted people, burnt properties and over 400 were missing from the Bhatta-Parsaul villages in Greater Noida and only a judicial enquiry could bring out the truth.
It promised to keep in touch with the villagers and hold a public rally after the Section 144 was lifted from the area on May 26.
Party general secretary Digvijay Singh said he had personally spoken to Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, whose objection had initially delayed the Land Acquisition Bill, and hoped to build a consensus soon.
"She has prepared a draft bill..we are going to discuss all the aspects and get it passed in the next session," he said, while arguing that even the old act did not prevent the state government from delivering justice to the affected farmers.
At almost the same time, Home Minister P Chidambaram, who began the special government briefing from Thursday, also expressed confidence that a consensus will emerge on the new act after introduction of some amendments and would be passed in the next session.
The home minister also said the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh was not good and it was distressing to see people being killed for demanding fair compensation.
Asked about Mayawati's charge that Rahul Gandhi was instigating people by doing a nautanki, Salman Khurshid, another minister in the GoM on media, said, "The chief minister cannot silence everybody. It is the right of every political party to protest against government's policies. We condemn the manner in which she dealt with Rahul Gandhi and the mention of Land Acquisition Act is merely a ply to shift blame."
Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni wondered why was Mayawati so worked up about Rahul as many other leaders from different political parties had also visited the area.
Digvijay Singh said the entire land allotment policy of the Uttar Pradesh government in Noida and Greater Noida was based on corrupt practices and there should be thorough investigation into all the allotments.
He asked why the civil society group led by Anna Hazare was turning a blind eye to the rampant corruption in UP. He said Mayawati had acquired plots from farmers to build a 100-acre farmhouse for herself in the Badalpur village, which is covered by 20-feet wall from all corners.
Waking up after almost seven years to the need to put together a comprehensive information dissemination machinery, the government on Thursday took the first step in co-ordination with the Congress party on an issue which brought Rahul Gandhi on the dusty bylanes of a UP village, led to him sitting on a dharna and then being arrested.