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Modi govt’s handling of farmers’ stir tarnished India’s image: Rahul Gandhi

“Why are we turning Delhi into a fortress?,” asks the Congress leader

[File] Congress leader Rahul Gandhi | Arvind Jain [File] Congress leader Rahul Gandhi | Arvind Jain

Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi today hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the farmers' agitation, asking why Delhi was being converted into a fortress and the protesters were being beaten up and threatened, and said the reputation of the country had taken a massive hit because of the manner in which the situation had been handled by the government.

“Today, Delhi is surrounded by our farmers. They are the people who give us sustenance...Why are we turning Delhi into a fortress? Why are the farmers being beaten up and threatened?,” Gandhi asked at a press conference at the AICC headquarters.

In hard-hitting comments, Gandhi, whose briefing was on the farmers' agitation and the Union Budget, said the country is lacking leadership and claimed that Modi has given up his responsibilities as the prime minister.

“The prime minister has basically given up and is on a different plane. He has got a beard as if he is going somewhere else now. The country is not being run. My request to the prime minister is—gather your courage and run the country,” he said.

This was Gandhi's third press conference in a span of a fortnight in which he has attacked the Modi regime on issues such as the farmers' agitation, the economic situation and Chinese incursion.

“My constant request to the prime minister is do your job. You have been elected to do your job. Your job is not to sell the country to one per cent of the population. Your job is to protect the Kisans who are standing outside. Go hold their hand, give them a hug and tell them ‘what is it that I can do for you’. Our job is to make sure that MSMEs can compete with China. Talk to them. Because they have the answer to China,” he said.

Dismissive of the prime minister's offer to postpone the three contentious farm laws for two years, he said, “either you believe that you need to get rid of the laws or you don't” and added that the farmers are not away and the government will have to take back the laws eventually.

Gandhi said that the government wanted to destroy the agricultural sector, which he said was the one bright spot that there was in the country. “When big businesses were hit by Covid, the one bright spot was agriculture. The farmers saved the country. Now, you are destroying them.”

Replying to a question, he agreed that the country's image internationally had taken a hit. “The reputation of India has taken a massive hit not only because of how we are treating our farmers but also our people, our journalists. Our soft power was our biggest strength. That has been shattered by the BJP and the RSS.”

Criticising the Union Budget, Gandhi said that it had met the requirements of only one per cent of the population. “You have snatched money from the MSMEs, the workers, the farmers and the forces and put it into the pockets of five or ten people. You talk of privatisation. Only these few people will benefit. India required that you put money into the hands of the people. That would have boosted consumption and kickstarted the economy. Had they gone in for something like NYAY and protected the MSMEs, the economy would have restarted,” he said.

In the backdrop of the Chinese incursion, Gandhi criticised the government for not increasing the defence expenditure. “By enhancing the budget by just Rs 3000-4000 crore, you have given the message that China can come in and that we will not support our forces. The forces have given their cent per cent commitment and the government's commitment should be 110 per cent. What kind of patriotism is that that you are not giving money to the forces when they are braving the winter in Ladakh?”

In a scathing attack on the government, he said that it was unable to handle the governance of the country and its incompetence was now coming to the fore. “They have messed up the economy, they have messed up the harmony, they have messed up the defence and they want to keep distracting India with non-events,” he said.

“I am seeing that the country is in a dangerous position. I am seeing that the world is in a flux. I am seeing that we have an aggressive China on the border. They have a clear vision of what they want to achieve. We do not have one... Like I said in February, Covid is dangerous for the country. I was ridiculed. I am saying it again,” Gandhi said.

He said the country requires the prime minister to take strict, quick action, which entails putting money into the hands of the people to restart the economy, protect the MSMEs and give a clear message to China.

“This country is lacking leadership. There is no leadership in this country anymore. There is just talk. There is no understanding. There is no strategy. The thing has just come apart,” he said, adding that the Modi regime was controlling the perception through a “media that is controlled”.

He, however, said that he believed that the “Maya (web of deception) is going to break”.

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