ON A day the Opposition as well as former alliance partners came down on the central government for its stance on the contentious farm Bills in the Lok Sabha, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah warned it against, what he called, attempts to subvert democracy in Jammu and Kashmir by trying to “buy” members elected in the District Development Council (DDC) polls through pressure from the administration.
“The DDC polls were conducted fairly, but now what’s happening there is not good. It’s going against the mandate people have given. Now your district collectors and officials are pressuring people to elect other chairpersons,” Abdullah said while speaking on the motion of thanks to the Presidential address.
Drawing the attention of Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who was present in the House, Abdullah said there have been attempts in Jammu and Kashmir to “buy” the members after the elections. “There has to be a law to prevent such actions,” he said.
Abdullah’s National Conference fought the DDC elections as part of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), but the Apni Party, considered close to the ruling BJP, won NC bastion Srinagar and Shopian with independent members.
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With almost all members focusing on the farmers’ issue in the debate, Abdullah, one of the senior-most members in the Lok Sabha, also spoke on the issue, asking the government to be flexible with the protesting farmers. “These laws are not religious scripture to which changes cannot be made. If they (farmers) want it to be repealed, why can’t you talk to them? I request that let’s not stand on prestige. It’s our nation. We belong to this nation, let’s respect everybody in the nation,” he said.
“We made the laws [farm laws]. If they [farmers] want that the laws be repealed, what you will lose if you talk to them?.. Please find a solution. We are here to find a solution not to create obstacles,” Abdullah appealed to the treasury benches.
He also took on the ruling party for “pointing fingers”at the former prime ministers and leaders. “You keep pointing fingers on the former prime ministers.… Tomorrow, you may not be in power. Will we talk about this PM then? This is not the Indian tradition. Respect the one who has gone. Let’s not point fingers at each other. Let’s respect each other,” he said.
Urging the government to treat everyone equally, the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said no one should indulge in divisive tactics which could break the country. “A doctor never looks at a blood bottle and asks whether the blood is that of a Hindu or a Muslim. God has made us all the same. You go to a temple, I go to a mosque,” he said. “Ram is not yours, Ram belongs to the whole world. Ram belongs to all of us. The way Muslims have held on to the Quran, the Quran is not just ours.”
Pointing out that the BJP government did not consult him or other political leaders before the abrogation of Article 370, he reminded the treasury benches that he had spoken for India in international forums. Taking exception to the criticism his party had to face, Abdullah said hundreds of his workers, including ministers, had been killed for holding the Tricolour.
Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav also slammed the central government on the issue of farmers protest. “Yesterday I heard ‘MSP tha, MSP hai, MSP rahega’. It’s just in speech but not on ground. Farmers are not getting it, had they been getting, they wouldn’t have been sitting in Delhi. I congratulate the agitating farmers that they have awakened farmers across India.”
He challenged the BJP leaders to say whether farmers in their constituencies received the MSP for their produces. “Farmers were never treated like this in the history of India. What all names they have been called? Why are you slamming the agitation? Hasn’t the agitation brought path-breaking changes?” he asked.
He also took a swipe at Yogi Adityanath, saying he was the first chief minister who took steps to withdraw cases against himself.
While BJP’s Mangaldoi MP Dilip Saikia praised the measures taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the development of the Northeast, Congress’s Preneet Kaur and TMC’s Saugata Roy severely criticised the government on the farmers’ issue. “The Prime Minister was in tears in the Rajya Sabha today morning. If he is a man of heart, he should have opened his heart for the farmers who have been sitting in the chill,” Roy said.
He also ridiculed the BJP for attacking national icons like Jawaharlal Nehru. “Syama Prasad Mookerjee did not spend a single day in prison. Jawaharlal Nehru spent nine years in jail. National icons are created naturally and BJP does not have that legacy,” Roy said.
However, BJP’s Ramesh Biduri questioned the “Opposition’s love for Nehru”, saying that Nehru could become the Prime Minister only after Sardar Patel gave up his claim despite having the popular support. Biduri also slammed the farmers’ protest, saying those who are leading the protests at the Delhi borders belong to the Left parties.
SAD’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who quit the BJP-led government protesting against the farm laws, also hit out at the Prime Minister. “The Prime Minister spoke about ‘Andolan Jeevi’; however, he used another word, whose meaning I didn’t know earlier. He used the word ‘Pari Jeevi’ which means parasite. Who is the Prime Minister calling a parasite? Are you calling the annadata (farmers) a parasite, who feeds the country,” she said.
She cited the recommendation given by Modi, as the chairman of a working committee on consumer affairs to the Manmohan Singh government that MSP should have statutory backing.
“As Gujarat Chief Minister, the Prime Minister recommended… that we should protect farmers interest by mandating through statutory provisions that no farmer, trader transaction should be below MSP. This is what the farmer is asking now…,” she said.
“This is the coldest winters of the last 20 years… the farmers are braving this cold and waiting at the border of the capital since November 26 and carrying out peaceful protest ; but the government in the last six months has shut its eyes and ears… but the farmers are treated with lathis and tears gas. The entire country is watching and supports the farmers… over 100 farmers have sacrificed their lives… but there is not a single mention offering condolence to these farmers…,” she said.
Former NDA ally Rashtriya Loktantrik Party’s Hanuman Beniwal said that government has conceded its mistake by offering the farm laws will be temporarily put on hold. “You are saying that the law will be put on hold. You have conceded that it is a mistake; why don’t you just withdraw the law. Let the farmer go back to his home. PM can make an announcement here,” he said.
“The government should not be arrogant. You have to go back (to seek votes). The farmers will not forget anything. When they will go and caste their vote, they will now which button to press. Don’t dream that the farmers will get tired…protest has turned into a public movement and not confined to six states,” he said.
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