Taking on Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati , Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday joined the land war, pledging full support to farmers fighting against acquisition and promising not to desert them till their demands are met.
Sneaking into Bhatta Parsaul village, the epicentre of the agitation in western Uttar Pradesh, in the wee hours riding pillion on a motorcyle, he sat with the agitating farmers throughout the day in scorching heat to emphathise with their cause and women who lost their men.
"I feel ashamed to call myself Indian after seeing what has happened here. The (state) government here has unleashed atrocities on its own people," the Congress general secretary told the farmers.
Even as he sat on a dharna, a war of words erupted, with BJP terming it as a "drama" and wanting to know why the UPA government was still not acting on his earlier promise of bringing Land Acquisition Bill in Parliament.
The Congress, on its part, said it was keen to get on early passage of the bill in Parliament.
Gandhi, who sat with the farmers for over 12 hours, said he associated with them as they were demanding their "right" and there was "nothing wrong" in it.
"I want to tell you that I am with you till your demands are met. Till your work is not done, the Congress party will not desert you," he said to a thunderous applause from the gathering which shouted slogans hailing him.
He said an official had told him that the agitation was like "naxalism" but he had found that the farmers were peacefully making their demands.
Gandhi demanded a judicial inquiry into the exchange of fire on Saturday last between farmers and police in which two farmers and two policemen were killed.
Earlier, after reaching the village at 4am along with party colleague Digvijay Singh, he heard the farmers and had tea with them. He also visited various hamlets.
SDM Vishal Singh met Rahul and asked him to end the dharna in view of the potential security risk to him in view of the situation in the area. Vishal Singh also expressed inability to provide security as he had come without intimation.
But the young Congress leader told the official that unless their demands are met he will not leave the village. The demands also included release of detained farmers.
Digvijay Singh said till a judicial inquiry submitted a report no action should be taken against the farmers in respect of FIRs lodged against them. He also demanded that all arrested farmers be released and that there should not be any forcible land acquisition.