New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi has been liberally using the phrase “suit-boot ki sarkaar”, praised by his party as one of his greatest hits. Three weeks ago, speaking in Parliament, Mr Gandhi deployed the term to accuse the government of being in thrall to industrialists. Today, as a variation, the Congress Vice-President offered, “Yeh suit-boot ka kaam nahi chalne dengey (this service of the elite will not be accepted)” to declare war on the government’s land reforms. “This thievery of farmers’ land will not be allowed,” he said, declaring that his party will fight the new land rules in Parliament and “on the streets, if needed.”
A biting comeback followed seconds later from a BJP law-maker in the Lok Sabha. “You are talking of suit-boot,” said Dilip Singh Bhuria, who represents Madhya Pradesh in Parliament, “what about jijaji (brother-in-law)?” Later, speaking to media, union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal added, “When Rahul Gandhi talks about ‘thieves in suits’, he is talking about his brother-in-law… Robert Vadra is always suited-booted and he robs farmers.”
Entrepreneur Robert Vadra is married to Mr Gandhi’s sister, Priyanka, and allegedly got sweetheart land deals in Haryana when the Congress party was in power.
The windfall profit that was conferred on Mr Vadra through these deals was turned into a headline of the BJP’s campaign for last year’s state election, which the party won.
Mr Gandhi’s clunky timing for a two-month vacation left his party fumbling for an explanation during the first half of this parliament session. However, since his return, he has led the Congress effort to discredit the government’s land reforms.
In 2013, the Congress-led government introduced new laws on how to acquire farmland for industrial and infrastructure projects. The Modi administration has revised those, alleging that the changes are necessary to build modern cities and industrial corridors crisscrossing India. But opposition parties have successfully portrayed the proposed, including exemption from getting consent of 80 percent of landowners for some projects, as anti-farmer.