Rahul meets Modi, opposition parties irked

A Congress delegation led by its Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Friday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi espousing the cause of farmers but the move led to cracks within the opposition. In a memorandum submitted to Modi, Gandhi demanded a waiver of loans given to farmers and urged the government to halve their electricity bills and provide higher MSP for crops. But the other opposition parties, which backed the Congress over demonetisation and other issues in Parliament, were miffed over Gandhi's decision to meet Modi after threatening to expose his corruption. "People are upset the Congress went to meet the PM alone. They (Congress leadership) think Congress is an ocean and we should all submerge. This is natural arrogance. That will not do good to them," Samajwadi Party's Rajya Sabha member Amar Singh said.

NCP leader D.P. Tripathi said instead of meeting the Prime Minister, the Congress should have strengthened opposition unity. "Congress is not helping its cause... That is why we are not joining them in meeting the President," he said. The Gandhi-led Congress delegation raised the issue of farmer suicides and asked Modi to write off loans given to farmers like it had been done in the case of corporates. "Thousands of farmers are committing suicide across the country. Every single day a farmer is committing suicide in Punjab. We apprised him about the plight of farmers," Gandhi told the media. The Congress submitted two crore 'maangpatras' from Uttar Pradesh and 30 lakh 'maangpatras' from Punjab, collected during door-to-door outreach in both the states.

"This government has waived off loans of Rs 1.40 lakh crore to corporates. We urge the government to waive off the loans of farmers as well," Gandhi said. The delegation comprised Punjab state unit chief Captain Amarinder Singh, Lok Sabha leader Mallikarjun Kharge and Rajya Sabha leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. Gandhi said the government decision to remove import duty on wheat was a "terrible blow" to the farmers. "The Prime Minister too admitted the condition of the farmers to be grave. But he did not say anything about waiving off the loans to farmers." The memorandum said Indian agriculture had been severely affected due to two consecutive droughts, unseasonal rains and floods. It said lakhs of hectares of crops were destroyed and millions of farmers dependent on agriculture had lost their livelihood.

"The distress has been further aggravated by their high indebtedness aggregating to approximately 4.2 lakh crore. Crop failures and inability to repay their debts and accumulated interest led a large number of farmers to commit suicides." Gandhi's meeting with Modi comes days after he vowed to expose the Prime Minister's "personal complicity in corruption". Party leader Azad explained why the Congress went on its own to meet Modi. "It was the Congress initiative and our agenda, not of a combined opposition. Where do other parties come in the picture in this?" he said. "I don't know why they are unhappy."

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