The Congress' youth wing activists on Monday morning set a tractor ablaze near India Gate, a few hundred metres from the Rashtrapati Bhavan and Parliament, to protest the contentious farm laws, attracting the BJP's diatribe as it accused the party of trying to "mislead" the farmers. The BJP said the opposition Congress has "shamed" the country with the "drama" aimed at "gaining publicity".
Five of the activists, from the Punjab unit of the Youth Congress, were arrested, police said.
Around 20 people carried a tractor on a truck to Rajpath, Man Singh Crossing, unloaded it from the truck and set it on fire, they said. According to police sources, the Punjab Youth Congress activists entered the Lutyens' Delhi along with a Punjab police gipsy.
Fire officials said they were informed about the incident at 7.42 am and two fire tenders were rushed to the spot. The blaze was doused and the tractor was removed soon, police added.
The incident comes amid protests by farmers and opposition parties across the country over the contentious farm legislations that were passed in Parliament last week.
Youth Congress media in-charge Rahul Rao said activists of its Punjab unit demonstrated at India Gate on the birth anniversary of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh.
"Our country thrives on the blood and sweat of our farmers. From fighting the British to feeding the entire nation, our farmers are the nation's backbone," the Youth Congress tweeted.
"On Bhagat Singh's birth anniversary Youth Congress set ablaze a tractor in protest against the government's anti-farmer bills," it added.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) Eish Singhal said an Innova car used in the act has been impounded.
"A case under section 3 of the Epidemic Act, section 51(B) of the Disaster Management Act, section 4 of the Damage to Public Property Act and IPC sections has been registered at Tilak Marg police station and five people have been arrested," the DCP said.
Condemning the incident, several senior BJP leaders, including Union ministers, hit out at the Congress. Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar accused the opposition of "misleading" the farmers over the farm reforms Acts.
"The Congress shamed the country today. Bringing tractor in a truck and then burning it at India Gate is a drama enacted by the Congress and we condemn it. The (Congress) party has been trying to do politics in the name of farmers, and it has been unmasked. It has enacted a drama for publicity," Javadekar told reporters.
BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav dubbed the Congress as "anti-farmers", saying the farmers venerate their farm equipment and will not set tractors on fire.
"This burning of tractors by the Congress and other opposition parties in the name of farmers is shameful," he said, adding they should not use India's food producers for politics.
Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat took a swipe at the opposition party, saying it is protesting against farmers' freedom in the name of Bhagat Singh by burning a tractor. "Its conspiracy has been unmasked," he said.
Delhi BJP MP Manoj Tiwari said the Congress is "expert in burning things", adding, they torched a tractor which is a source of prosperity for farmers.
In a statement, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) president Tejasvi Surya said, "Our farmers worship the tools they use for farming. No real farmer ever burns his tractor. If at all the Youth Congress wanted to show their support for farmers, they could have donated the tractor to a poor farmer instead of burning it. But how can they? Destroying is all they know."
In reply, the Youth Congress quoted Bhagat Singh. "If the deaf is to hear, the sound has to be very loud: Bhagat Singh," read their tweet.
"In honour of the memory of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, IYC Punjab protested against the BJP government's apathetic treatment of farmers by lighting a tractor at India Gate. Wake the sleeping government. Inquilab Zindabad," it said in another tweet.
The Congress and several other opposition parties have been protesting three farm sector laws enacted by the Narendra Modi government, alleging these are "anti-farmer measures" and will "destroy" the agriculture sector.
The government has, however, asserted that the new laws will free farmers from the clutches of middleman and allow them to sell their produce anywhere they want at a remunerative price.