Rahul Gandhi's comment on the "terrible" state of farmers in the country provoked a rebuttal from Union Minister Rajnath Singh in parliament on Thursday. "People who ran the government for decades" were responsible for the situation, Rajnath Singh shot back, in a dig at the Congress.
"I would like to draw the attention of the government to the terrible plight of farmers in Kerala. It hurts me to inform this house that just yesterday, a farmer in Wayanad committed suicide due to his crushing debt," Rahul Gandhi said in the Lok Sabha, referring to the constituency from where he won the national election.
There have been six farmer suicides in Wayanad this year. 55-year-old Ankittan drank poison on Wednesday. His family says he was burdened by a cooperative bank loan of Rs 3 lakh that he was not able to repay.
Accusing the government of refusing to help farmers while giving concessions for "rich businessmen", the Congress leader said: "Why this shameful double standards? Why does the government act as if our farmers are inferior to the rich?"
He urged the government to ask the Reserve Bank of India to consider the moratorium declared by the Kerala government on loan recovery and to ensure that banks don't threaten farmers with recovery notices.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, countering him, said "people who ran the government for decades were responsible for the situation of farmers" and most farmer suicides took place before the BJP-led government came to power.
"The farmers crisis did not start in the past few years. It was there since their rule. But since the (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi government came to power, we have worked towards doubling farmers' income. Kisan Man Dhan Yojana has benefited the farmers and led to a 20-25 percent increase in their earnings," Rajnath Singh said.
This was Rahul Gandhi's first statement in parliament in the new Lok Sabha, and since he resigned as Congress president and started calling himself a Congress MP in his Twitter bio.
Earlier this week, Rajnath Singh, responding to Congress allegations of the BJP engineering a rash of resignations in Karnataka's ruling coalition to try and seize power, took a swipe at Rahul Gandhi. "Don't blame us. It is Rahul Gandhi who started the resignation spree."