With farmer unions on the backfoot following the violence during the tractor rally in Delhi on Republic Day, official sources indicated that the government now wants to resume the talks only after seeing that its offers are accepted.
There have been informal talks with farm union leaders, with the government’s representatives flagging the differences among them.
“The government has got the upper hand in the negotiation table now. We are pointing out that farm union leaders who have been engaging in talks with us have lost control over the agitators, and they should use this opportunity as a graceful exit and agree to the offers the government has made,” a source in the government said.
Sources in the government feel that farmers’ leaders, who are protesting against the three laws, have lost “moral authority” in the wake of violent protests in the national capital on Republic Day. “The government has already given them (farmer leaders) a better proposal, but they did not accept it. They lost a good opportunity…. They have (now) lost the moral authority. Now, we have to see whether they accept that offer or they come with a counter proposal,” a source said when asked about the possibility of resumption of talks between the Centre and representatives of farmers’ unions.
While farmers have stuck to their demand for repeal of the laws, the government, which initially took a tough stand, on January 20 agreed that it could suspend the three laws for 18 months and set up a joint committee to discuss the laws in detail. The farmers rejected that offer and decided to continue the protests.
However, after Tuesday’s tractor rally turned violent in the national capital, one of the organisations part of the agitation, Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, announced that it was withdrawing from the ongoing agitation.
Sources indicated that the ruling dispensation expects more unions to move away from the agitation. “Now what we are looking forward to seeing is how many more would agree to the offers the government has made,” the source said.
BJP leaders indicated that the party would unleash a campaign to “expose the differences among farmer unions”. Its spokespersons, who were subtle in their stance on the issue, have already started toeing an aggressive line in their television debates.
“It was like a closed fist; now it’s open and the farmer unions have got exposed,” a BJP leader said. “The so-called leaders do not have any control over them. Even if the government held discussions, what assurance can they (unions) give in making everyone agree to it? So, the government will have discussions only if it is sure that the stand-off is over.”
The BJP leader also said the government would “naturally cash in on the Catch-22 situation the farm union leaders have got (themselves) in.”
However, party leaders admitted that the government’s concern over farm sector reforms still remains. “We may break the agitation and resolve the issue, but when the laws are in suspension our concerns over the agriculture sector remains,” a party leader said. “The farmers in some states (Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh) have stalled the reforms despite the majority we have (in Parliament).
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