Akali-BJP, Third Front plan massive rallies in Delhi Feb 26

February 23rd, 2008 - 1:22 pm ICT by admin  

By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, Feb 23 (IANS) Thousands of supporters of Punjab’s ruling alliance as well as activists of the Third Front will pour into Delhi for separate demonstrations on Tuesday, but with both focussing on the cause of farmers. The Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is mobilizing people from all over the state to bring them to Delhi for its ‘Maha rally’ to highlight the cause of farmers, especially those from Punjab, and also of the state’s industry.

The second rally will be by the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA), which plans to march to Parliament House. Top UNPA leaders like former chief ministers Mulayam Singh Yadav, Chandrababu Naidu, Farooq Abdullah, Om Prakash Chautala and senior leader Amar Singh will lead this demonstration.

The Akali-BJP rally, being planned by newly crowned Akali Dal president and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s son Sukhbir Badal is also being seen as an attempt by the Akalis to foist themselves on the national scene, with particular emphasis to push Badal junior on the national political scene.

The rally will be addressed by the father-son duo along with BJP stalwarts - prime minister-in-waiting L.K. Advani and BJP president Rajnath Singh among others. It is the first time in four decades of their political association that the Akali-BJP combine is holding a joint rally in Delhi.

“If the Akali-BJP alliance wants the United Progressive Alliance government to pay more attention to the farmers of Punjab and to the state, a respectable strength of people has to be there at the rally,” Sukhbir Badal has been telling party legislators and top leaders over the past few days.

“We will demand an irrigation package of Rs.5,000 crore (Rs.50 billion) so that our farmers can reap the benefits. Their loans should be waived off. They contribute 65 percent of the country’s food grains but are neglected, while sops are given to farmers in other states. This will not be accepted,” Sukhbir said.

The Akali-BJP combine is expecting over 100,000 people at their rally to be held at the Ramlila ground. District officials in Punjab’s 20 districts have been unofficially instructed to ensure over 2,500 buses by Sunday to ferry party supporters to Delhi.

On the same day, at the UNPA rally, the alliance leaders will demand implementation of the Swaminathan committee report on minimum support price (MSP) for wheat and paddy.

“The central government has anti-farmer policies. Farmers are being cheated as the prices offered are low. When farmers sell their produce, it is at a low price, but the price increases after it goes to the middlemen. The Congress government is importing wheat at Rs.1,600 per quintal whereas it is not ready to give our farmers a MSP of Rs.1,500 per quintal for the same wheat,” Rajya Sabha MP and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader Ajay Chautala said.

The UNPA, with next year’s Lok Sabha polls in mind, has even invited Left party leaders for the Delhi rally.

Most of the people being mobilized by the UNPA leadership for the rally will come from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

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