Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday mocked Narendra Modi, saying the prime minister was threatening the farmers who are protesting against the new agriculture laws, when he himself could not stand up to China, reported PTI.

Gandhi made the remarks at a farmers’ mahapanchayat in Pilibanga town of Hanumangarh district in Rajasthan. This was the first of the two farmers’ meeting organised by the Congress in the state on Friday. The other one was held in Sri Ganganagar district.

He said that even though the reforms will impact 40% of Indians, Modi was only concerned about clearing the path for his corporate allies. “He would not stand before China, but [he] threatens farmers,” the Congress leader added. “This is the reality of Narendra Modi.”

He also referred to the India-China agreement on disengagement of troops in east Ladakh, alleging that the Modi government ceded territory between fingers 3 and 4 on the banks of Pangong Lake. His repeated rebuttal also prompted a response from the defence ministry on Friday, clarifying that India has not conceded any territory to China.

Gandhi said that after demonetisation and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, the farm laws were another blow to the people of the country. “Earlier, it was the demonetisation and I had said it was not a fight against black money, and the backbone of the country was being broken,” he said. “But people didn’t understand this at that time. Later, it came to be known that loans of three or four persons were waived and your money went to the banks.”

“After this, the GST was implemented, which was an attack on small and midsize businesses,” the Congress leader continued. And now, Gandhi said, “Narendra Modi wants to clear the way for his friends,” referring to big corporates.

The Congress leader said that just as farmers fear, the implementation of the new laws will lead to the shutting down of government mandis and big businessmen monopolising the purchase of farm produce.

He predicted there will also be hoarding of agricultural produce. “If a single person wants to purchase the country’s entire grain, it can be done [under the new laws],” he said. “What mandi system will remain then?”

The first law is meant to finish the mandi system, while the second law is about unlimited hoarding, Gandhi added. “It means one person can control prices, and when this starts, top rich businessmen of this country will start hoarding,” he added. As for the third law, Gandhi said it was all about snatching the right of farmers to seek justice.

The Congress leader said this was not an attack on farmers alone but on 40% of the country’s population. “The objective of the laws is to shift the business of 40% people to two or three people,” he added. “What will happen to those who sell grain, fruit and vegetables on roads if only one company starts selling grain, fruits or vegetables of the entire country?”

Gandhi said farmers have understood the problems and that is why they are at the forefront against the new laws. The Congress leader also hit out at Modi for repeatedly claiming that the laws have been brought about for the benefit of farmers. “If this was so, why are the farmers disappointed and agitating and why 200 farmers died,” he asked.

Farmer protests

Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at Delhi’s border points for over two months, seeking the withdrawal of agricultural laws passed in September. The protests had largely been peaceful but violence erupted on January 26, when a tractor rally planned to coincide with Republic Day celebrations turned chaotic. More than 100 protestors have been arrested in connection with the violence and several are missing.

The farmers believe that the new laws undermine their livelihood and open the path for the corporate sector to dominate agricultural. 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 are meant to overhaul antiquated procurement procedures and open up the market, the government has claimed.