LAUNCHING A scathing attack on the government, senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said the three farm laws which it had enacted was not an isolated development but part of a larger design by the government to hand over key areas to a handful of big corporates and create massive monopolies which he argued will impact the middle class and the youth.
With the farmers’ protests not spreading outside Punjab and Haryana and failing to create enough ripples among other sections, Gandhi perhaps was trying to nuance the Congress strategy.
Addressing a physical press conference, his first at the Congress headquarters since the lockdown, Gandhi also attacked the government over the Chinese aggression, saying it has no “strategic vision”.
Gandhi said a tragedy is unfolding in the country. “I am not just talking about the farmers because that is only a part of that tragedy… what we are seeing and we have seen it in industry after industry… we have seen it when it comes to airports, infrastructure, power, telecom, retail… across the board what we are watching is the development of massive monopolies in this country,” he said.
“Three, four or five people are now owning this country. This country is now owned by a limited small group of people, who I term as crony capitalists who have a close relationship with the Prime Minister and who provide the Prime Minister with media support…,” he said. Agriculture, the last bastion which was protected from monopoly, is now being overrun, he said.
Gandhi said it was a tragedy that the country itself is not able to understand the depth of what is happening.
He said what is going to happen is that “three or four people are going to own India, own the entire agricultural system”.
“Farmers will not get the value they deserve, the mandi system will be destroyed… three or four will be able to store millions and millions of tonnes of wheat, rice and other essential commodities and the middle class will be paying prices that you have never imagined… This is not an assault on the farmers, this is an assault on the middle class, this is an assault on every single youngster in the country who is not going to get a job.”
Gandhi said the farm laws are part of a process to weaken farmers. “This will not stop here. Their aim is to finish India’s farmers and give the agricultural system to 3 or 4 of his friends…,” he said.
Asked about questions posed by BJP president J P Nadda, targeting him and his party, Gandhi said, “Is J P Nadda my professor? That I keep on answering him. Who is he? Is he India’s professor or teacher? Why should I answer him… I answer to the country… I will answer the farmers…Whatever the farmers ask me. And yes we had spoken about agricultural system reforms. But we did not talk about destroying agricultural system… we did not talk about destroying markets, we did not say farmers cannot go to courts, we did not say that we will allow one or two persons to store India’s foodgrains….”
On China, he said India does not have a strategic vision to counter it and argued Beijing is testing India through such intrusions. “China is watching and understanding India’s weakness. And China has a clear strategic vision. It wants to shape the world. India does not have a strategic vision. Sometimes we are doing this, sometimes we are doing that… India is not working strategically,” he said.
China, he said, has tested India twice, once in Doklam and now by sending troops in Ladakh. “If India does not give a clear message to China and not formulate a clear strategy – be it military strategy, economic strategy or geo-political strategy – China will not keep quiet and it will take advantage of the situation. And when it takes advantage, there will be damage. Then you will not be able to stop it,” he said.
Gandhi said if the government thinks that it can manage China by indulging in “tu tu main main” and “through event management” it is mistaken. “China is different. China wants to dominate and it is working systematically. Your words would not make any difference…your job is to protect India and you are not doing that. And the result of it India will see. You cannot move away from reality,” he said.
Asked about the controversy over the purported WhatsApp conversations between Arnab Goswami and former CEO of Broadcast Audience Research Council Partho Dasgupta, he said the Republic TV editor had been given sensitive and top secret defence related information by either the Prime Minister or the top four people – the Defence Minister, Home Minister, NSA and the Air Force chief – and argued it was a criminal act. He demanded an investigation saying “it has to be found out who gave the information and both of them should go to jail”.
“This was top secret information… There were four or five people who knew this information. The Prime Minister of India, possibly the Defence Minister of India, the Home Minister of India, the NSA and the Air Force chief. These would be the five people who would know this. This is a criminal act… Giving official secret information to a journalist is a criminal act, both on the part of the person who accepted it and on the part of the person who gave it. It has to be found out who gave the information and both of them should go to jail. This process should start. But this process will not start (because) the Prime Minister may have given the information. So it (investigation) will not happen,” he said.
The Congress is planning to build heat on the government over the issue. On Wednesday, the party will field Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Defence Minister A K Antony, former Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to take on the government over the issue. Antony, Khurshid and Shinde were members of the Manmohan Singh government’s Cabinet Committee on Security.