Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday took on the Narendra Modi government, saying that there was no democracy in India and those who spoke against the prime minister were labelled terrorists, anti-nationals or criminals.

Gandhi’s comments came after he led a delegation to meet President Ram Nath Kovind to seek his help with withdrawing the three farm laws, which have led to massive protests in the country.

“PM Modi is making money for the crony capitalists,” Gandhi told reporters after meeting the president at Rashtrapati Bhawan. “Whoever will try to stand against him will be called a terrorist be it farmers, labourers and even Mohan Bhagwat.” Bhagwat is the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s ideological mentor.

Gandhi demanded that the government convene a special joint session of Parliament as the farmers protesting on the outskirts of New Delhi will not go back unless their demands are fulfilled. “If the prime minister does not repeal these laws, not just the BJP, not just the RSS, but India will be affected,” he said.

The former Congress chief said the Centre’s agricultural laws would destroy the livelihoods of millions of farmers and they were designed to favour “two or three business people”, who were crony capitalists.

He added:

“You have an incompetent man who is controlled by certain other people. This is what India has to understand. This is what all youngsters have to understand. You have an incompetent man who does not understand anything and running a system on the behalf of three or four other people who understand everything. And their aim is to take huge amount of money from the poor people of India and put it in their pockets. And that’s what we are fighting. 

Frankly, it doesn’t matter what you think right now. Because all of you will face this. There is not going to be a single person who will not face it. If you are a farmer, you are going to face it. If you are a small businessman, you will face it. You are a journalist, you will face it.”

— Rahul Gandhi

‘No democracy in India’

Earlier in the day, Gandhi’s sister and Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and several others were taken into preventive custody by the police. They were sent in a bus to a police station as they were marching from the party office at Akbar Road to Rashtrapati Bhawan.

Sharpening his attack, Rahul Gandhi said, “The government is stopping our MPs from moving out of our office. There is no democracy in India, it is only in imagination, but not in reality.”

The Congress MP said that people’s voices are being stifled in India, calling it “unfortunate”. He further questioned Modi’s silence about India’s standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh. “China is still at the border,” he said. “It has snatched away thousands of kms of the land of India. Why doesn’t the prime minister speak about it, why is he silent?”

Farm law protests

Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi for 29 days against the laws, withstanding temperatures as low as 2-3 degrees Celsius. The farmers fear the agricultural reforms will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, will lead to the deregulation of crop-pricing, deny them fair remuneration for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporations.

However, the government maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies. It has refused to repeal the reform-oriented laws.

The negotiations between farmers’ groups and the Centre have not progressed since the last meeting, scheduled to be held on December 9, was cancelled. Both the government and farmer leaders have reiterated their positions and dialled up the rhetoric, but have not made no concrete efforts to resume discussions to resolve the deadlock.