Rahul Gandhi to address mega farmers rally in Delhi

New Delhi: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi will address farmers on the Centre’s proposed land reforms in what is being seen as his comeback rally.

The party says it expects over a lakh farmers to gather at Delhi’s massive Ramlila grounds, where most political protests are held, in a show of strength by the opposition party, which is attempting a political resurrection after humiliating defeats in last year’s national elections and multiple state polls thereafter.

Central to those plans is Rahul Gandhi, just back from a two-month-long sabbatical in an unknown place and which is said to have included a course in vipassana or meditation.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul’s mother, will also address today’s “kisan khet mazdoor” (farmer-farms labour) rally; the Congress leaders will attack the Narendra Modi government on its land acquisition bill, which makes it easier to acquire land for industrial and key infrastructure projects. The party says the bill is “anti-farmer”.

The Congress hopes Sunday’s show will serve to address speculation triggered by Rahul Gandhi’s long “leave of absence” – even within his party – on whether he is ready to take over as party chief as planned.

Congress leader Sachin Pilot said, “Rahul Gandhi will reconnect with the farmers and emerge stronger from the sabbatical.”

Several party leaders have recently commented that this may not be the right time for Sonia Gandhi to make way for her son. Others have rushed to say that he should take charge of the party and lead from the front immediately.

Parliament’s budget session – the first part of which Mr Gandhi controversially skipped – reconvenes tomorrow. The Congress has said it is will continue to oppose the land bill, that will be introduced in the Lok Sabha for the second time in the upcoming session, and has said that Rahul Gandhi is likely to address Parliament on the issue this time.

Mr Gandhi yesterday held meetings with delegations of farmers from several states before today’s rally.

The ruling BJP is dismissive about today’s show of strength. “He was absent for two months… it’s the government that understands and solves the problems of farmers,” said the party’s Sambit Patra.

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