Taking Prime Minister Narendra Modi on over the new farm legislation, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Wednesday said his heart beats only for his “billionaire friends” and promised that her party will scrap the laws if it comes to power.
At a 'kisan panchayat' organised by the party at Chilkana in Saharanpur district, she accused Modi of "insulting" farmers who are protesting against the laws, caring little for their viewpoint.
“You have seen the 56-inch chest, in which there is a small heart that beats only for his billionaire friends. He doesn't understand how farmers feel,” the Congress general secretary said.
She called the three agri-marketing laws “demonic”.
“If voted to power, the Congress will scrap these laws. Farmers will get the MSP (minimum support price). Laws will be made to help you, not oppress you," she said.
The rally was the first in a series of farmers' meetings planned by the Congress in western Uttar Pradesh, a year before the assembly elections in the state where the opposition party is struggling to revive itself.
Gandhi was presented with a pair of ploughs at the meeting.
Beginning her address, the leader said she had visited the Saharanpur temple dedicated to goddess Shakumbhari. She also went to the Raipur Khanqah Dargah.
"These three laws were drafted in such a way that government 'mandis' will eventually close down, the farmers will not get the MSP and there will be hoarding," she said.
"In other words, the farmers' voice will become weak and the voice of billionaires will grow stronger," she said, in an apparent reference to private businesses.
She said the farmer's heart beats for the country. Farmers' sons sacrifice their lives protecting the country, or even providing security to the prime minister. “But our prime minister doesn't realise their pain,” she added.
She accused Modi of “insulting” farmers.
“The prime minister said the farmers are 'aandolanjivi',” she claimed, referring to his remark about people who lived for the sake of taking part in protests.
“The farmers are protesting for their own life, land, country and for their sons. A person who ridicules them, terms them terrorists and traitors is not a patriot and can never be," she said.
Recalling the ruling BJP's poll promises, the Congress leader said the money government sugar mill owe to farmers in the state has not been paid.
“However, two aircraft worth Rs 16,000 crore have been bought for Narendra Modi ji so that he can travel across the world," she claimed.
She also criticised the spending on the planned new Parliament complex when the sugarcane farmers are not being paid their dues.
Earlier, she tweeted in Hindi, "To listen to the farmers' 'dil ki baat', understand them, share my feelings with them and support their struggle, I will be in Saharanpur today. The BJP government will have to
withdraw the black farm laws."
When asked to comment on the Congress event, UP minister Anand Swarup Shukla said a "drama is being enacted in the name of farmers.
He claimed that "gangs" opposing the government have gone international, and referred to tweets on the farmers' protest by foreign celebrities.
He asked Congress leaders to "oppose Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but not the country".
Law Minister Brijesh Pathak said the BJP government was committed to helping farmers and termed Priyanka Gandhi's tour an "eyewash". "Some leaders just want to be in the limelight," he added.
UP Congress chief Ajay Kumar Lallu and senior party leader P L Punia attended the 'panchayat'.
Opposition parties including the Congress are supporting farmers camping on the borders of Delhi for weeks, demanding the repeal of the agri-marketing laws enacted last September.
Most of the protesters are from Punjab and Haryana, but there is sizeable number from western Uttar Pradesh with Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait assuming a lead role in the agitation.
Recently, Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Jayant Chaudhary also addressed farmers' 'mahapanchayats' in western UP.
Farmer unions say the laws will weaken the MSP system. But the government says they offer more options to farmers to sell their crops, and will help raise their incomes.