Greater Noida/Lucknow/New Delhi: Throwing a fresh challenge to Chief Minister Mayawati, Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday visited Bhatta-Parsaul again to kickstart his foot march nearly two months after his visit to the twin villages, the epicentre of farmers' protests that had led to his midnight arrest. "The foot march is to know what is the benefit, what is the impact of the land acquisition policy of the Mayawati government. When and where he will go, we do not have information," Singh told reporters.
The Congress General Secretary made Bhatta-Parsaul, which saw widespread protests over land acquisition in Uttar Pradesh two months back, the first stop of his 'Kisan Sandesh Yatra' when he came calling in a car at 6 am drumming up support for the planned kisan mahapanchayat in Aligarh on Saturday ahead of next year's Assembly elections.
Rahul visited a number of villages in this Gautam Budh Nagar district, met farmers and tried to know problems being faced by them. He also held 'Choupals'(informal assembly of people), some of it under the trees on the roadside.
Till Tuesday evening, Rahul walked around 25 km on foot and covered Rustampur, Nagla Bhatauna and Dayanathpur besides Bhatta and Parsaul, according to UPCC spokesman Akhilesh Pratap Singh, who is accompanying the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family.
In the afternoon, Rahul relished "desi food"--Dal, Roti and Chhach at one Rajiv SIngh Jat's house in Nagla Bhatauna, where people of nearby villages also joined in after hearing the news of his arrival.
During the yatra, Rahul preferred to talk less and hear more from the farmers and poor villagers, a person accompanying him said.
Rahul is expected to stay overnight in Jewar, a tehsil in Gautam Buddha Nagar and will rersume his yatra early on Wednesday.
The Mayawati government refused Rahul permission to hold a kisan mahapanchayat in Bhatta Parsaul in the outskirts of Delhi as the two sides geared up for another round of confrontation.
"Whatever happened in Bhatta Parsaul, other people were not aware of it. I wanted to understand this land acquisition happening here, from here to Agra," he said addressing villagers at one place.
"This yatra I have started from Bhatta, from here I will to go to villages and I will try to understand this acquisition, the new law and the peoples' opinion on this law. How, where and for whom are the laws getting implemented I want to understand.
"That is why I have come here and will go to other villages to understand the same," he said.
Sitting on a rope cot, Rahul looked very much at home, holding a small, beaming child in school uniform on his lap as he talked to villagers in Bhatta-Parsaul. Rahul was accompanied by security personnel.
Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh said Rahul Gandhi's foot march was aimed at getting first-hand information from people on the impact of Mayawati government's land acquisition policy.
He said that farmers facing problems relating to land acquisition in any part of UP should come to the party's rally in Aligarh on July 9 and speak out.
Rahul was arrested by the Mayawati government in Bhatta Parsaul on the night of May 11 and released after a few hours when he had gone there to oppose the police action against farmers during their protests against land acquisition. Four persosn were killed during the police action.
He told the villagers that the Congress is dedicated to take up their cause and was therefore holding the mahapanchayat.
Congress leaders accompanying Rahul told Bhatta Parsaul farmers that the kisan mahapanchayat was earlier scheduled to be held at Bhatta Parsaul but as the administration did not give permission the venue was shifted to Aligarh. Some areas of Aligarh saw massive agitation against land acquisition in August last year.
Gandhi reached Rampur village near Jewar at around 7 pm and has decided to stay there overnight. On Wednesday he will proceed to Jewar and Aligarh villages.
Rahul visit mere drama: BSP
Dismissing Rahul Gandhi's visit to Bhatta Parsaul as dramatics, Uttar Pradesh's ruling BSP said if he is sensitive to the problems of farmers he should pressurise the Centre to formulate a pro-farmer land acquisition policy.
"The party strongly condemns dramatics being done by the Congress leader in the name of kisan mahapanchayat in Bhatta Parsaul," a BSP spokesman said in Lucknow on Tuesday.
In reality Rahul should visit Congress-ruled and supported states as "real problems" were being faced by farmers there, he said, adding "If he is actually sensitive to the problems of farmers, he should force his government at the Centre to formulate a pro-farmer land acquisition policy like the one announced by UP government."
The BSP spokesman alleged that when Congress "failed" to understand the problem of farmers during 38 years of its rule in UP but says it would understand the same by the time of coming state assembly elections.
Rahul visit political stunt: BJP
Meanwhile, dubbing Rahul Gandhi's second visit to Greater Noida villages as a "political stunt", BJP accused him of following "two standards" of compassion and wondered why he did not express similar sentiments after the police crackdown in the national capital on supporters of Ramdev.
Terming Gandhi's visit to Bhatta-Parsaul villages as a "political stunt", Former BJP President Rajnath Singh said, "It is a political drama. You can call it as a political stunt. Beyond that it is nothing."
BJP Vice-President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said in a statement that Gandhi's visit to UP villages was a "political photo session" organised by the BSP government in the state.
He also slammed the Congress General Secretary for his reported comments that no farmer was against selling his cultivable land if he gets proper compensation. He said such remarks were an "insult" to the farmers who depend on their land for survival.
BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy later questioned why Gandhi did not express similar sentiments after police action against supporters of Ramdev.
"We want to understand why his compassion is limited to happenings in Uttar Pradesh. Why can't he display similar compassion in other places, especially Delhi...how can there be two standards of compassion. We want Congress to clarify," Rudy told reporters.
He also dubbed it as an "irony" that while Congress leaders attack the Mayawati government, they also seek the assistance of the ruling BSP to "to remain in power" at the Centre.
Greater Noida/Lucknow/New Delhi: Throwing a fresh challenge to Chief Minister Mayawati, Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday visited Bhatta-Parsaul again to kickstart his foot march nearly two months after his visit to the twin villages, the epicentre of farmers' protests that had led to his midnight arrest.
"The foot march is to know what is the benefit, what is the impact of the land acquisition policy of the Mayawati government. When and where he will go, we do not have information," Singh told reporters.