Thousands of farmers converged at Tappal, the epicentre of their agitation against inadequate compensation for the Yamuna Expressway land, to listen to Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) chief Mahendra Singh Tikait Friday, but the ageing veteran's lacklustre speech failed to enthuse the crowds.
Tikait's name drew more than 15,000 farmers at the dharna site. Looking frail and weak, not merely because of ageing, but also on account of recent illness, Tikait arrived late and spoke for barely six minutes, urging farmers to continue their agitation until their demand was fulfilled.
'I am confident that the government will eventually concede your demand which is absolutely legitimate; stick to your guns and the victory will be yours,' he told the crowds.
Urging the farmers to remain united, he said, 'You must also not allow any construction activity to take place on any part of the Yamuna Expressway until your rightful compensation is paid to you.'
Reiterating the unanimous demand of farmers drawn from different areas in Aligarh, Mathura, Agra and Bulandshahr, he declared, 'I see no reason why the state government will not give you the compensation that it has given to your counterparts in Noida and Greater Noida.'
Tikait's son, Rajesh chose not to address the gathering.
Earlier in the day, Congressmen, led by former Madhya Pradesh chief minister and All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Digvijay Singh, visited the site of the 'dharna' at Tappal to reassure farmers of the party's full support.
'I am going to speak to the prime minister and we hope to find a permanent solution to the issue of adequate compensation for land acquired for public purposes,' Singh told the gathering.