This is the last interview done by IANS political editor George Joseph, who passed away early Monday following a massive heart attack.
By George Joseph
Shamli (Uttar Pradesh), Feb 27 (IANS) As Uttar Pradesh readies for the penultimate round of its assembly elections Tuesday, forcible acquisition of farmland and its transfer to private builders will weigh heavily on the voter’s mind, says Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) MP Jayant Chaudhary.
‘The protests in Noida and other places in western Uttar Pradesh will have their impact. People, especially farmers, will vote against Chief Minister Mayawati who was responsible for the land acquisition,’ Chaudhary, 33, told IANS in this town, 100 km from Delhi.
‘Forcibly acquired farmlands and the killing of farmers will prove to be Mayawati’s Waterloo,’ he said.
Chaudhary, 34, seeks to carry on the legacy of his grandfather, former prime minister Charan Singh, and father, union minister and RLD chief Ajit Singh. He is the Lok Sabha MP from Mathura, but is contesting the assembly polls from Mat, which falls in his parliamentary constituency. The sixth of the seven-phased assembly elections will be held Tuesday.
According to Chaudhary, farmers don’t want a blanket ban on acquisition.
‘But they are against the Mayawati government’s act of acquiring land in the name of public purpose and transferring it to private builders who later sell properties built there at highly enhanced prices,’ said the London School of Economics alumnus.
‘For the past few years, I and (Congress leader) Rahul Gandhi have been opposing and agitating against the indiscriminate action of the Mayawati government of taking away prime farmland and gifting it to private builders,’ he added.
Two farmers and a policeman were killed in violence during a farmer agitation in Tappal in Mathura in August 2010 while two farmers and two policemen were killed in another farmer stir in Bhatta-Parsaul in Greater Noida in May 2011.
Seven other farmers were killed in a series of violent incidents in 2008-09 in western Uttar Pradesh.
Chaudhary had taken up the cause of farmers in Mathura and Aligarh while Rahul rode into Bhatta-Parsaul on a two-wheeler on May 11, putting the land acquisition issue in Uttar Pradesh in national limelight.
RLD is contesting the assembly polls in alliance with the Congress. RLD is fighting from 47 seats – 43 of which are in western Uttar Pradesh – in the 403-member assembly.
‘We could stop the brazen land acquisition because of our agitation in Mathura-Aligarh districts,’ the RLD leader said.
‘Not that farmers are blindly and blankly opposing any acquirement of land. But it should not destroy the future of farmers and just help a private parties,’ said Chaudhary.
Various models of compensation based on equity and lease could be discussed, but the basic purpose should be public interest, not private profits and kickbacks to a few politicians, he said.
Farmers and their land should not become an object of exploitation by officials and profiteers, he said.
Farmland should be acquired only for an important public purpose and at a equitable compensation, he said, ‘Because land is the only asset of a farmer.’
The votes will be counted on March 6.