Rahul’s Kisan Appeal: Misinformed and Doomed
The Congress is clutching at the Land Acquisition Bill issue to get its “poor and farmers” vote bank back. Here is a factual analysis why it cannot.
The Congress has got it all wrong again. Its attempts to relaunch crown prince Rahul Gandhi via a big “Kisan Rally” in Delhi exposed its inherent weakness and bankruptcy of ideas. The party has taken a sharp turn to the left by taking the fight against the Bill that seeks to amend the Land Acquisition Act of 2013, as its major weapon to fight Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma. Trying to build a pro-poor image by taking a jibe at the BJP-led NDA government as a “suit-boot ki sarkar”, the Congress scion has revealed the course of action drafted for him.
The facts, then.
– That big Kisan rally? Some news media exposed how the Congress mustered numbers for the rally. Some news channels showed people leaving the rally venue soon after Sonia Gandhi started to speak, further strengthening the argument of a paid crowd.
– Rahul’s bland bilingual 20-minute speech in the Lok Sabha (the third in 13 years of parliamentary tenure) was not attended by many of his party men in spite of a whip—only 28 of the 44 Congress MPs were present.
– His basic argument is plain wrong. He says Modi is trying to pay back industrialists who helped the BJP win the Lok Sabha election, But in the Bill proposed by the government, the ownership of land remains with government and is not transferred to industry.
The farmers’ prime concern now is crop loss due untimely rain. Rahul Gandhi’s speeches had only passing mentions of this.
The Land Acquisition Bill issue is not something that is bothering farmers. This is why:
– 75 per cent of farmers are marginal croppers with an average holding of 0.6 hectare according to the NSSO.
– 82 per cent of the land owners do not earn much from the land by simply holding on to the asset.
– The Bill is likely to affect at the most land owners nearing urban centres, who constitute hardly about 10% of the farmer population. And only 1.8 per cent of the land owners are likely to get affected by the changes in the Land Acquisition Bill.
– The proposed amendments are applicable only in case of projects requiring more than 100 acres in rural areas, and the changes made in the ordinance are only in five particular cases. The real affected population could be much smaller.
The agriculture sector, which more than 60 per cent of the population depends on, faces different and more important challenges. Economically, diverting all the political energy into the Bill will not yield dividends.
The BJP, on its part, must find ways to explain this economics to the people. The Opposition’s rhetoric is threatening to wean away votes of non-farmers as well.
But it won’t be easy for the Congress either. The vote bank it is eyeing, has many competing claimants: the newly merged Janata parivar, Communists, sundry Lohiaites in different states and various regional parties. The BJP can catch hold of a significant portion of this section of the electorate with its energetic membership drive and high pitched campaigns. If Modi is able to deliver on projects like Make in India, MUDRA Bank and Jan Dhan Yojana, its vote share can go only upwards. A three-way split in this “poor and farmers vote bank” will only add to the misery of the Congress.
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