Thousands of farmers and labourers paralyzed the Indian capital on Wednesday in a protest against what they called the anti-people policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, as opposition parties step up pressure ahead of key elections. A sharp drop in commodity prices and stagnant wages have dented Modi’s popularity in rural areas home to about two-thirds of India’s 1.3 billion people, and key to his hopes of winning a second term in next year’s general elections.
Traffic in many parts of central Delhi came to a halt as the protesters, many in red hats and waving red flags, marched towards Parliament Street in the heart of the capital. Some sat on pavements as honking vehicles moved slowly past. “This country’s farmers are very angry with the Modi government,” said Karan Singh, a 58-year-old rice grower from India’s northern breadbasket state of Haryana, dressed in traditional white clothes. “We’re suffering losses and the government is not doing anything about it.”
Modi’s rural woes have been worsened by a failure to deliver on a promise of tens of millions of jobs for young people that helped him secure the largest mandate in three decades in 2014. That vow has provided opposition parties with their biggest stick to try and beat him with, in three big state elections this year ahead of next year’s general election.
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