Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday said that pop stars had commented on the farmers’ protest but the Indian government did not seem interested in solving the problem, reported PTI. He was indirectly referring to pop singer Rihanna’s tweets on the protests in India.

“We have pop stars who are commenting on the situation of Indian farmers but the Indian government is not interested,” he said, during a meeting organised after the six-km tractor rally between Thrikkaipatta to Muttil in Wayanad. “They are not going to take back three laws unless they are forced. The entire world can see the difficulties faced by Indian farmers. But the [Union] government in Delhi is unable to understand the pain of the farmers.”

The Wayanad MP, who is on a two-day visit to his constituency ahead of Kerala’s Assembly elections, also criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment scheme. Gandhi claimed that Modi had “ridiculed” the rural job scheme when he charge as prime minister in 2014, but was later “forced to accept” the fact that the initiative was a “saviour” for citizens amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The MGNREGA was brought in under the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.

“We are not going to allow Bharat Mata’s [reference to India as a motherland] business to be taken over by two or three [of] Narendra Modi’s friends,” Gandhi said, according to PTI. “That is why we drove tractors here to make farmers understand that we are standing with them, we are going to help them and we are going to make sure this BJP government takes back these laws.”

The Congress leader also reiterated his hum do hamare do” remark, which he had made in the Parliament. “The country is run by four people,” Gandhi said in the Lok Sabha on February 11. “Hum do, aur humaare do. This hum do humare do began with notebandi [demonetisation]. Then came GST [Goods and Services Tax]. Then came Covid-19. Migrant workers pleaded for a bus or train ticket to return home, but were told to walk back.”

Gandhi said that Self Help Groups and the MGNREGA scheme were brought under the UPA government not as a “gift”, but as “tools for empowerment for making our people stronger.”

International support for Indian farmers

Earlier in February, pop icon Rihanna tweeted in support of Indian farmers who have been protesting against three new agricultural laws. Rihanna’s tweet drew global attention to the protests as prominent Western personalities then echoed her support for the farmers’ movement.

Following international condemnation, the Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement calling the tweets a “sensationalist” attempt by “vested groups” to intervene in India’s internal matters.

Shortly after, a host of Indian actors, celebrities and sports stars, many of whom have long been silent on the farmer protests, began tweeting in one voice. Among them were cricketing stars Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble and Ravi Shastri. They used hashtags #IndiaAgainstPropaganda and #IndiaTogether – coined by the foreign ministry – and wrote identical messages in support of the new agricultural laws.

A study showed that Indian celebrities had engaged in collusive tweeting of the two hashtags framed by the external affairs ministry. Many of their tweets had similar wording and phrases.

The study titled “Rihanna versus Bollywood: Twitter Influencers and the Indian Farmers’ Protest” said that the tweets by the Indian celebrities came in three batches – actors tweeting in the morning, cricketers in the afternoon and mixed group in the evening. The study was conducted by researchers Dibyendu Mishra, Syeda Zainab Akbar, Arshia Arya, Saloni Dash, Rynaa Grover and Joyojeet Pal.