Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s politics began with land -- raising the Kalawati issue in the Lok Sabha in his first term as an MP to his night stay at a poor tribal’s home at Tikamgarh in Madhya Pradesh in 2008 and his war against Mayawati in Gautam Buddha Nagar’s Bhatta Parsaul village in 2011.
He had walked it down against the land in Bhatta Parsaul being taken away by the then Mayawati government for a project. He was arrested and then released. It was also his movement against a Vedanta project in the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha to protect the tribals. His pet project was the land acquisition bill which was pushed by UPA to protect the land of poor farmers.
The criticism soon came that Rahul Gandhi had abandoned the farmers’ issues and disappeared. However, now he is back. Behind the Congress’ aggression over the farm laws is Rahul Gandhi’s desire to reclaim his land politics and agenda.
Sources say that both Rahul and Priyanka are micromanaging the Congress strategy on the farm law agitations. Rahul has made it clear that this would have to be a movement down from up. The lead would have to be taken by state and district units and slowly build up to the centre. Which is why on Bhagat Singh day, the state Pradesh Congress Committees were asked to agitate. Even a normally reticent and reluctant Punjab chief minister had to step out. Amarinder Singh was on a day-long sit in. In fact, he created a controversy by saying the farm laws will make farmers vulnerable to overtures from the ISI.
Then came the decision of Sonia Gandhi to advise the Congress-ruled states that they should look at the possibility of passing laws under Article 254(2) of the Constitution which allows state legislatures to pass a law to override a central law which then comes for President’s assent. The rationale behind this is simple and one which was pushed by Rahul Gandhi. A case in the Supreme Court could mean the top court ruling in favour of the farm law. And like in the Rafael case, this would be seen as a defeat of what the Congress was fighting for and give added grist to the government’s stand on the law.
Secondly, state legislatures taking the lead means it would assert the supremacy of the state and add strength to the argument that the farm law violated the federal spirit as agriculture is a state subject.
Rahul Gandhi is likely to resume his ‘yatra’ from Punjab and Haryana on the land issue soon. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra too has been micro managing the land agitations and is expected to land in Uttar Pradesh after Diwali to oversee the farm protests.
The culmination of the Congress movement is to be on Gandhi Jayanti on 2 October and there could be a grand show by the Gandhis.
Rahul Gandhi’s push for this aggression is also driven from the fact that he wants to project the Narendra Modi government as a ‘suit boot ki Sarkar’ which helps selected corporates at the cost of farmers.