Marching on: Rahul takes on Mayawati on land acquisition (Roundup)

July 6th, 2011 - 11:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Rahul Gandhi Aligarh/Lucknow July 6 (IANS) Congress leader Rahul Gandhi Wednesday completed the second day of his ‘padyatra’ (march) against land acquisition in Uttar Pradesh, attacking the Mayawati government, even as the Supreme Court came down heavily against the state’s acquisition policy.

But while the landowners were welcoming the apex court order on returning the acquired lands, political tempers were rising with the Mayawati-led state government imposing prohibitory orders in Aligarh district, banning any assembly of five or more people.

Gandhi reached Syrol village in Aligarh district Wednesday evening and is scheduled to stay there for the night.

As the organisers of the yatra, mostly village leaders, did not make any announcment of the schedule for Thursday, officials in Aligarh hinted that the administration, despite the ban orders, may not be stop the march.

“We will see the situation Thursday. But one fact is clear, the villagers are supporting Rahulji,” Iqbal Singh, a village leader accompanying Gandhi, told IANS.

Gandhi’s surprise padyatra to support the farmers’ cause, began from the violence-hit twin villages of Bhatta-Parsaul early Tuesday morning.

Political watchers view the yatra as a strategy to take on the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and to revive the Congress for the assembly polls due next year.

The politics of the yatra was to the fore Wednesday too, with the rulinh BSP describing it as “political theatrics aimed to revive the Congress” and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) discounting it as a ‘tamasha’ (charade).

Gandhi’s padyatra is scheduled to culminate in a ‘kisan mahapanchayat’ (farmers’ rally) in Aligarh town Saturday.

The district authorities have prohibited any gathering of five or more people under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

In Aligarh, district police chief Satyendra Vir Singh told IANS: “Section 144 is in force all over the district since June 12 and in this background Rahul Gandhi’s padyatra will be a clear violation.”

Singh, however, clarified that if there is no apprehension of breach in law and order, the authorities might choose not to prevent Rahul’s padyatra.

Meanwhile, the Gandhi padyatra got a boostwith the Supreme Court Wednesday upholding an Allahabad High Court verdict and quashing the acquisition of land in Shahberi village of Greater Noida.

An apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice A.K. Ganguly held that the acquisition of 156 hectares of village land under the emergency provisions of the Land Acquistion Act (Section 19) was bad in law.

The state government had taken over the land in Shahberi village under the emergency provisions of the act under which the land owners were denied the right to be heard.

On Wednesday, Gandhi began his day at 6.30 a.m. walking towards Shabota village.

The 41-year-old Gandhi scion interacted with villagers, students and women folk on his way.

“I wanted to understand the situation of farmers and that is the reason I’m here between you, to talk to everyone of you,” Gandhi told a gathering of villagers.

“Mayawati declared a new compensation policy but has she ever implemented the existing one?” Gandhi asked the 200-strong crowd that included both men and women.

“Justice has not been done to farmers whose land has been acquired,” he said.

Ramesh, a villager, remarked: “There has never been a leader like Indira Gandhi. Let’s see what Rahul Gandhi does for the country.”

As reports of mobilisation of Congress party workers for the Saturday’s rally poured in, political circles felt that the next days were crucial.

So far, no other leader has been accompanying Gandhi, in an attempt to give it the colour of a “non-party farmers’ movement”.

However, political analyst Balji Sharma felt that the Gandhi march will turn into a political battle if he ups his ante against the Mayawati government or the district and the administration restricts the yatra in any way.

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