Prime Minister Narendra Modi today reached out to farmers with an address to a "thanksgiving" rally in Punjab, once known for its "Green Revolution". At the rally attended by thousands, he said he salutes the "hard working farmers from all over the country".
"The farmer should have been the first to be uplifted. But for decades, you were ignored by the party that ruled India since Independence," he said, taking a dig at the Congress, which wrenched the state from its ruling Akali-BJP combine in last year's assembly elections.
The "thanksgiving rally" in Muktsar -- 280 km from state capital Chandigarh -- was organised by the BJP and ally Akali Dal to mark the recent hike in minimum support price for 14 summer crops. The hike was the biggest during the four years of NDA rule, which will cost the government nearly Rs 15,000 crore in public funds.
"Our farmer brothers can now breathe easy... they can earn better... they can sleep peacefully... because of the MSP increase," the Prime Minister said.
But this, he said, will give sleepless nights to the Congress. "They never thought we could make this happen. No one in the Congress is daring to come out and speak, because they know that did nothing for 60 years".
The hike in support prices -- one of the pre-election promises of the BJP -- comes on the heels of massive farmer protests across the country. They also had the support of the opposition, which highlights farmers' suicides to accuse the government of being insensitive to their needs.
Ridiculing what the government has called "a historic decision" Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has compared the MSP hike to applying band-aid to a "massive haemorrhage".