India's reputation taken massive hit, PM must protect farmers: Rahul Gandhi

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addressing media at AICC HQ in New Delhi

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi "to do his job" of protecting farmers and claimed India's reputation has taken a "massive hit" with its soft power being "shattered" by the ruling BJP with its handling of the agitation against the new agri laws.

The Congress leader, however, refused to comment on some international celebrities, including American singer Rihanna, extending support to the farmers' protest, saying "this is our internal matter".

Addressing a press conference, he said that the farmers' issue needs to be resolved by the government as soon as possible as delaying it further was not good for the peace and harmony in the country.

Training his guns at Prime Minister Modi, he claimed there is no leadership in the country at present.

Asked if India's image at the international level has taken a beating over reports of the treatment being meted out to the protesting farmers at Delhi's borders, Gandhi said, "Absolutely, the reputation of India has taken a massive hit. Not only on how we are treating our farmers but on how we treat our people, how we treat journalists."

"Our biggest strength, you can call it soft power, has been shattered by the BJP-RSS, their mindset," he said.

Referring to the multi-layered barricading and roadblocks at protest sites, the former Congress chief asked why the national capital was being converted into a "fortress" and asserted that farmers work hard for the country and should not be treated in this manner.

"My constant request to the prime minister is 'do your job'. Your job is not to sell this country to one percent of the population. Your job is to protect the farmers who are standing outside (Delhi). Go hold their hand, give them a hug and tell them 'what is it that I can do for you'," the former Congress chief said.

"So the PM has basically given up, he is now on a different plane...we are going somewhere else now and the country is not being run. It is my request to the prime minister that please gather up your courage and run the country," he said.

Gandhi said the prime minister's offer of postponing the implementation of the laws does not mean anything as the laws should be done away with once and for all.

"...Why is the government not resolving this problem? It is not good for the peace and harmony of our country. It is not good for the future of our 'kisans' (farmers)," he said.

Asked about the events that took place at the Red Fort on the Republic Day, he said the Home Minister Amit Shah needs to explain how the people entered the monument.

Gandhi alleged that the government is unable to control the situation and its "incompetence is now coming to the fore".

"They have messed up the economy, they have messed up the harmony, they have messed up the defence and they want to keep distracting India with non-events. I am saying that the country is in a dangerous position," he alleged.

Noting that the world is in flux, he said an aggressive China is on the border with a clear vision of what it wants to achieve, while "we do not have" that vision.

Criticising the Union Budget, he said it was for one percent of the population and gave a wrong message to China as there was no significant rise in the defence allocation.

"It (conditions) requires that the prime minister put money immediately into the hands of our people and revive the economy, it requires that he protects the small and medium businesses who give us requires a clear message to China that 'you cannot do this with us, you cannot be sitting inside our land and expect that nothing is going to happen," he said.

"There is just talk, there is no understanding, no strategy. What is there is a media that is controlled so the reality of what is going on is not coming out. This 'maya' is going to break."

Gandhi argued that India needed money in the hands of the people, asserting that the economy can be revived only through consumption and it cannot happen from the supply side.

He also stated that had the government introduced a scheme like 'Nyay' by giving money into the hands of the poor and small businesses, the economy would have revived.

"My expectation from the Budget was that government will provide support to 99 percent of India's population. But this Budget is for one percent population. You (the government) snatched away money from people in the small and medium industry, workers, farmers, forces, and put it in the pockets of 5-10 people," he alleged.

"China enters into India and takes away thousands of kilometres of our land. What message do you give them in our budget-- that we won't increase our defence expenditure. You raised it by Rs 3000-4000 crore. What message did you give? 'You can enter India and do whatever you want, we won't support our defence forces'," Gandhi said.

"The commitment of forces is cent percent, the government's commitment should be 110 percent. Whatever our army, navy and air force need, the government should give them," he said.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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