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NEW DELHI : Senior leaders of the Congress led by former party chief Rahul Gandhi met President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday and urged him that a joint sitting of Parliament must be called soon to withdraw the three farm bills. In one of his sharpest attack against the centre, Gandhi said that India was ‘heading down a dangerous path’ with tenets of democracy not being applicable in reality.

The day saw high drama after senior party leaders including general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were stopped by police and taken to Mandir Marg police station in the national capital. Only a three-member delegation including senior party lawmakers Ghulam Nabi Azad, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, led by Rahul Gandhi met the president.

Also Read | Inside the farmer disquiet at Delhi’s doorstep

“We told the President that the farm laws are anti-farmers and anti-workers. The government keeps on saying that this is for the benefits of farmers but we want to reiterate that the farmers are against these laws. I want to tell the Prime Minister that the farmers are not going back and will continue to register their protest. The entire opposition stands with them," Gandhi told reporters after meeting President Kovind.

“A joint sitting of Parliament should be called and the bills should be withdrawn. These bills were passed without any deliberation or scrutiny. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have to listen. No force can stop farmers and workers. The singular aim of BJP and Modi is to help raise money for crony capitalists," he added.

The Congress party on Thursday said it had submitted nearly 2 crore signatures of people who were opposed to the farm laws. This is the second meeting of Gandhi with Kovind this month. On 9 December a delegation of senior opposition leaders from five political parties including Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar had met Kovind demanding repeal of the laws.

The farm bills have become a bone of contention between farmers and union government with thousands of farmers protesting against the move including nearly a month-long protest currently taking place near Singhu border in the national capital. Taking on the centre, Gandhi on Thursday made a sharp attack saying that the union government does not engage with stakeholders and any act of protest by opposition parties is met by force.

“There is no democracy in India, it is only in imagination, not in reality," Gandhi said in response to a question on Thursday indicating that the issue is likely to politically snowball further. Senior ministers and opposition leaders have been in a war of words over the issue. Centre has defended the bills as pro-farmers and accused the opposition of misleading farmers.

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