A day after a united Opposition extended support to the December 8 Bharat Bandh called by protesting farmer groups, the ruling BJP on Monday hit out at the political parties for opposing the farm reform laws and, citing their earlier support to many of the provisions, accused them of “shameful double standards”.
The Congress hit back, saying the BJP, by launching a “senseless” and “mindless” anti-Congress tirade, was trying to hide the “sin” of attempting to snatch the livelihood of farmers and handing it over to its “crony capitalist friends”.
The BJP fielded senior party leader and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to take on the Opposition. He alleged that a section of farmers had fallen in the grip of a few people with “vested interests”, while asserting that the government was working to address their misgivings about the reforms.
Prasad said the BJP’s rival parties have jumped into the protest in a bid to save their existence after being repeatedly rejected by people in different elections across the country. The minister pointed out that many of the parties that have declared their support to the farmers’ protest had suggested similar reforms in their manifestos in the past. He read out from the Congress’s manifesto for the 2019 general election to note that it had promised to “repeal” the APMC Act and also said that Rahul Gandhi had asked Congress-ruled states in 2013 to take measures to allow farmers to sell their produce directly.
Prasad said NCP leader Sharad Pawar, who was agriculture minister in the UPA government, had asked states to amend the APMC Act and had even warned them that the Centre would not provide financial assistance in the absence of the three reforms.
He, however, praised the protesting farmer unions for not associating their stir with political parties.
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, inaugurating the Agra Metro virtually from Delhi, said reforms are needed for development. “We cannot build the next century with laws of the previous century. Some laws that used to be good in the past century have become a burden now. Reforms should be a continuous process,” he said without making any direct reference to the new laws or the farmer protests.
Reacting to Prasad’s remarks, Congress’s communication department in-charge Randeep Surjewala, while insisting on a repeal of the three laws, said, “It was the Modi government that brought the three black laws through a midnight ordinance. It was the BJP government that forcibly passed the three black laws by a voice vote denigrating Parliament procedures and practice. The Modi government is acting as a subservient and subjugated servant of a handful of crony industrialists to hand over the 25 lakh crore agriculture product trade to its friends. And it is an irony that it is blaming the Congress for it.”
Asked about Prasad’s specific charges, he said, “The UPA and Congress gave maximum MSP to farmers and upheld the APMC system as also the MSP system. So what are the obnoxious comments that he is making? What he is saying neither makes any sense nor has any reason behind it. The Congress manifesto clearly states that APMC will be renamed as farmer markets and multiplied in thousands.”
Tweeting in support of the protesters, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said, “The ‘Adani-Ambani Farm Laws’ have to be revoked. Nothing less is acceptable.” In another tweet, he said the Congress would support the Bharat bandh fully. “Atrocities and injustice on the annadatas cannot be tolerated,” he added.
Opposition parties, including many regional outfits, on Sunday came out in strong support of the ‘Bharat Bandh’ on December 8 called by farmer unions who have been protesting at Delhi’s borders for 11 days demanding the repeal of the Centre’s new agri-marketing laws.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, NCP’s Pawar, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, DMK chief M K Stalin and PAGD chairman Farooq Abdullah, among others, have issued a joint statement backing the proposed day-long strike and pressed the Centre to meet the legitimate demands of the protesters.
The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee said 24 political parties have extended support to the bandh call given by the farmer groups.
With inputs from ENS, Lucknow