Rahul Gandhi, a key leader of India's main opposition party Congress, has accused the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government of "selling off" the "entire country" to four to five big industrialists over the last six years.
"Four to five industrialists own the country today", remarked Gandhi.
इस देश के 4-5 नए मालिक है। आज तक खेती में एकाधिकार नहीं था। आज तक हिंदुस्तान के खेतों का फायदा किसानों, मजदूरों, मिडिल क्लास और गरीबों को जाता था : श्री @RahulGandhi #RahulGandhiWithFarmers pic.twitter.com/DVwZ7gK3Rt— Congress (@INCIndia) January 19, 2021
"Selling off the agriculture sector to crony capitalists is the biggest damage they have inflicted on our nation. Until now, agriculture was the only sector where there were no monopolies", he added, criticising the three recently passed farm-related laws that have triggered protests by farmers.
The last bastion that was protected by monopoly is being overrun. 3 new laws will destroy Indian agriculture, by destroying mandis, by destroying essential commodities act & by making sure that no Indian farmer can go to court: Shri @RahulGandhi#RahulGandhiWithFarmers pic.twitter.com/lZTE1BoWwo— Congress (@INCIndia) January 19, 2021
"With the new laws, that is about to change", stated Gandhi, while giving his first presser of the year at the party's headquarters in New Delhi.
Gandhi said the new farm-related laws would not only affect farmers, but also middle-class households as he alleged that monopolies in the farm sector would inadvertently affect the country's food security and lead to unprecedented inflation levels.
"The youth of the country must understand this very clearly. The farmers are protesting not because the new laws affect just them. They will affect every Indian household in one form or another", claimed the 50-year-old Gandhi, the former chief of the Congress party.
Gandhi's invoking of business monopolies under Modi is seen as an indirect reference to several business conglomerates in the country, including billionaire industrialist Gautam Adani, and Mukesh Ambani, the latter heads India'a richest business group Reliance Industries Limited (RIL).
One of Ambani's companies holds a virtual monopoly in the telecom sector. Adani's companies, on the other hand, control some of India's major airports.
"Be it the ports, airports, or the telecom sector, the monopolies of only a handful of companies in crucial Indian sectors is almost complete", Gandhi said.
Both Adani and Ambani's firms have categorically denied the accusations that they stand to benefit from the new farm laws.
Prime Minister Modi, for his part, has repeatedly defended the new laws. The Indian PM says the new laws, once fully implemented, will boost the income of farmers.
Replying to a question after delivering his speech, Rahul Gandhi also hit out at the governing BJP for repeatedly questioning his patriotism and inciting the farmers for political gains.
"Mr Modi thinks that the farmers don't understand what he is trying to do with these farm laws. But the farmers are more clever than the PM", he quipped.
"No matter how much they question or criticise me, I will continue to back the farmers. The three laws will have to be repealed", he asserted. "When it comes to patriotism, I am a bigger fanatic than Mr Modi".
Rahul Gandhi's press conference came just days after he met parliamentarians from his party Congress protesting the farm laws in Delhi.