Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday said that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government was tiring the farmers protesting against the farm laws so that they end their agitation and leave.

“Time is being wasted, you are being made to tire out,” he told reporters. “They think that the farmers do not have strength. They think that the farmers will leave in 10 days, 15 days. [Prime Minister] Narendra Modi ji does not respect the farmers.”

On a question about the deaths of the farmers, the Congress leader said that it doesn’t matter to Modi how many farmers die. Gandhi made the statements while leading a protest outside Delhi’s Raj Niwas, the Hindustan Times reported. He was accompanied by Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and party workers. The Congress is calling the protest the “Kisan Adhikar Diwas [Farmers’ Rights Day]”.

“The prime minister thinks that the 3-4 industrialists run the country,” he said. “It is a very superficial thinking. Farmers and labourers run the country. Youth runs the country.” He also claimed that these industrialists control the media, and run what they want on the news.

The Congress leader asserted that the farm laws will be withdrawn. “The farmers will not back down, the prime minister has to,” he said. “The Congress also stands with the farmers.”

He reiterated his claim that Modi wants to hand over things that belong to the farmers to the industrialists. “He is the prime minister of the country but the remote control is in someone’s hand,” Gandhi said. “I actually feel pity for him [Modi]. He is trapped. He is just the prime minister for namesake.”

Gandhi further said that the Congress will not relent till the Centre repeals the farm laws. He reiterated his stand on the farm laws and said that the legislations were not meant to help the farmers but “finish them”.

Meanwhile, the police in Chandigarh used water cannons to stop Congress members and workers who were marching towards the Punjab Raj Bhavan, reported ANI. The police later detained them.

Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee President Ajay Kumar Lallu was also detained during a protest in Lucknow. “Police custody of Uttar Pradesh Congress President is a condemnable and shameful act,” the Congress said in a tweet, sharing the video of the incident. “If the Adityanath government thinks that it will suppress the voice of the farmers by taking them into custody then this is its wrong thinking.”

Congress members in Himachal Pradesh and Arunchal Pradesh staged demonstrations. The protests come amid the ninth round of talks between farmers and the Centre over the farm laws. Farmers said they don’t have much hope for a positive outcome. Eight rounds of talks with the government has so far failed to end the deadlock.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court had put a hold on the implementation of the laws until further orders and formed a committee to resolve the deadlock between the Centre and farmers’ union. However, farmers have refused to appear before the panel, saying that all the members have supported the laws in the past.

Farmers have completed over 50 days of continuous protest on the borders of Delhi, demanding the repeal of legislations and a legal guarantee that all farm produce would be sold at minimum support prices. The farmers believe that the new laws undermine their livelihood and open the path to the corporatisation of the agricultural sector.

The government, on the other hand, maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies. The laws passed in September are meant to overhaul antiquated procurement procedures and open up the market, the government has claimed.

‘Crocodile tears’: Harsimrat Badal hits out at Rahul Gandhi

Meanwhile, Shiromani Akali Dal leader Harsimrat Badal Kaur renewed her criticism of Rahul Gandhi, accusing the Congress leader of maintaining double standards about the farm laws.

“Where was Rahul Gandhi when farmers staged [a] dharna in Punjab” she tweeted. “Where was he when [the agricultural bills] were passed in Parliament? 40 Congress MPs were absent from proceedings...Does Rahul [Gandhi] think fancy sympathetic words will wash off his complicity in the crime?”

Badal added that Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was hand-in-glove with the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre.

The Akali Dal leader alleged that Gandhi was shedding “crocodile tears” over the maligning of farmers, who the Centre accused of having “khalistani” links.

“Rahul Gandhi should tell why your grandmother [Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi] used same words for Punjabis, why your father got them slaughtered and why you labelled them as drug addicts?” she said. “Once you come up with answer then only talk about Punjabi farmers.”