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Congress should focus on #KisaanSatyagraha instead of ranting on #RahulSnoopFarce

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Aditya Menon
Aditya MenonMar 17, 2015 | 13:56

Congress should focus on #KisaanSatyagraha instead of ranting on #RahulSnoopFarce

For a party reduced to a paltry 44 seats in the Lok Sabha, the Congress party has managed to find its sting as an Opposition, becoming more than just a nuisance for the Narendra Modi government.  

Today the party conducted what by most accounts seems to be a successful protest against the Modi government's Land Acquisition Bill. The protest began on March 13 at Bhatta Parsaul, the place where Rahul Gandhi had agitated against the forcible acquisition of land by the Uttar Pradesh government in 2011. In Gandhi's absence, the padyatra from Bhatta Parsaul to Delhi was led by party leader Jairam Ramesh who as rural development minister under the UPA, had spearheaded the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Act. The Act was widely seen as pro-farmer even by non-Congress parties like the Left, AAP and JD(U) and even RSS affiliates like Bharatiya Kisan Sangh.  

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The padyatra culminated in Delhi today with senior party leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad, Jairam Ramesh, Ahmed Patel, Randeep Singh Surjewala, Deepender Singh Hooda, Sachin Pilot and Raj Babbar leading the "Kisaan Satyagraha" outside Parliament.  What was significant about today's protest was the manner in which Indian Youth Congress cadres jumped into the protests with vehemence. Despite the presence of senior leaders, the most defining image of the Satyagraha would be that of an injured IYC president Amarinder Singh Raja Brar protesting in a blood-soaked kurta. IYC isn't quite associated with such a combative brand of politics. But in the past few months, Youth Congress cadres have been cutting their teeth by carrying out street protests across the country.  

With senior party leaders and IYC cadres taking up cudgels on behalf of the farmers who would be harmed by the Modi government's Land Acquisition Bill, it seems that the Congress has finally found its feet as the main Opposition party in the country. Also, with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar fasting against the land ordinance in Patna at the same time, it does seem that there is a degree of co-ordination with other important Opposition parties.  

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This is a significant success for the Congress. Less than a year after it came to power, the Modi government is being seen as opposed to the largest vote-bank in the country: farmers. And with an pro-poor ideological shift on the cards, the Congress will be back to where it belongs.  Having pushed the BJP to the backfoot on the Land Acquisition Bill, it is difficult to understand why the Congress has decided to open another battle-front against the government by attacking the government for allegedly "snooping" at its vice-president Rahul Gandhi.   

True, there was something suspicious about the visit of one Shamsher Singh, an assistant sub-inspector of the Delhi Police Special Branch, to Gandhi's residence on March 2. But nowhere does it merit comparisons with the infamous "Snoopgate" scandal in Gujarat.  The Gujarat Snoopgate affair involved blatant misuse of the state machinery for the surveillance of a private citizen. What made the entire episode scandalous was that the then minister of state for home, Amit Shah, and many top officials of the Gujarat police were accused of being party to the surveillance. This cannot be compared to some fishy behaviour on the part of an ASI.  

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The BJP government began by ridiculing the Congress's charges and it appeared to have weathered the storm until Union minister for parliamentary affairs M Venkaiah Naidu made a statement that played into the Congress's hands. "What is wrong in this, when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated, his body was identified by his shoes," Naidu said, referring to the questionnaire that asked about Gandhi's hair colour and the kind of shoes he wore, among other details.

What is clear in both the land acquisition protests and the "snooping" affair is that even in absencia, Rahul Gandhi is setting the agenda in the Congress. The jury is still out on whether this will culminate in his appointment as party president in the immediate future but the Congress will bear a much clearer Rahul stamp in the months to come.

Last updated: March 17, 2015 | 13:56
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