A year ago, around the same time, the Congress had decided to launch an aggressive campaign and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi embarked on his Khat Sabhas that were held from Deoria to New Delhi. Even as the Congress started showing signs of revival in Uttar Pradesh, from where it was banished from power 27 years ago, the party leadership, again, made a mistake by striking an alliance with the Samajwadi Party. With anti-incumbency weighing heavy on its shoulders, the Congress slumped to its worst ever defeat and was left with just seven seats in an Assembly of 403 members. A year later, the Congress, rather Rahul Gandhi, is returning to the cots.
The Congress leader has apparently realised that the route to a comeback in UP does not pass through the Samajwadi Party office and will once again revive his Khat Sabha programme. For this, a “Jan Andolan Samiti”, headed by former NSUI chief Swayam Prakash Goswami, has been formed.
“We will be carrying forward the campaign that we started last year. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi will revisit the farmers and the party will mount pressure on the BJP government to address their problems,” Goswami said.
The programme is likely to begin from August, though the route is yet to be finalised.
Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) president Raj Babbar said, “At present, the party wants to keep alive its old connect with the farmers. There are no elections round the corner in UP, but the party wants to reassure the farmers that we will continue to fight for them.” The UPCC president said that more than three crore farmers were feeling cheated by the BJP government in the state on the loan waiver scheme, which is yet to reach the beneficiaries. Babbar has asked all district units chiefs and village-level workers and leaders of the party to be the first in reaching out to the farmers whenever they are in trouble.
The Kisan Khat Sabhas that Rahul Gandhi addressed in UP in August last year in the run-up to the Assembly elections had evoked an overwhelming response, even though the event made more news when the farmers ran off with the cots. Gandhi had made over one crore farmers submit “Kisan Maang Patra”, listing details about their debts. These were later handed over to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“This time, the agitation will not be restricted to the streets. We will raise the issues in the state Assembly and the Parliament too,” said Congress MLA Aradhana Mishra.
Party sources claim that the Congress high command is now planning to go it alone in the Lok Sabha elections, because an alliance with a divided Samajwadi Party—Mulayam Singh is strongly opposed to the Congress—will not serve its purpose.
The revival of the Khat Sabha is part of the party’s multi-pronged strategy to adopt an aggressive posture for its revival and position itself as a viable alternative to the ruling party for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.