FRAMING the farm laws as an economic and political imperative, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said Tuesday that the Government would invite protesting farmers for talks the day they revert with their response to the concessions offered.
In an interview to The Indian Express, Tomar linked the laws to the “303-seat mandate,” that, he said, had been given to the government not just to stay in power but to effect change.
He cited demonetisation and GST as reforms pushed in the first term to which there was opposition but which, Tomar claimed, were transformative and were rewarded by a stronger majority in 2019.
Narendra Modiji ne pehle karyakaal mein bhi bahut reform kiye…Logon ne kaha notebandi hai ab ulti ginti shuru, GST hai toh ulti ginti shuru…Doosre karyakaal mein, Narendra Modiji ko 287 ke sthaan par 303 seat dekar jitaya. Iske maine yeh hai ki Narendra Modiji se desh yeh chahta hai ki jo sudhaar rajneetik swarth ke chalte, dabav-prabhav ke chalte, jo badlav desh mein aaj tak nahi aa paya vote bank ki rajneeti ke kaaran, us sey upar uthkar Narendra Modi kaam karen,” he said.
(In the first term too, Modi carried out many reforms and there were people who after demonetisation and GST said that the countdown had begun for his government. But in the second term, people voted for Modi and gave him 303 seats compared with 287 seats in 2014. This means that people wish Modi should undertake reforms which have long been ignored due to political pressure, vested interests and vote bank considerations.”)
Asked about the next steps in defusing the continuing standoff with farmers, Tomar said informal talks were on with some farm leaders, and he was awaiting a response from them on the government’s proposal sent on December 9.
“I am ready to send them an invitation once they revert on the changes proposed by the government,” he said. Tomar was clear that the government will not repeal the farm laws, but said he was hopeful of an early resolution in the coming days.
“We are ready to review the provisions of the laws which farmers feel are not in their interest… But they do not want to discuss the laws on a clause-by-clause basis… During the discussions, I realised they had certain other worries related to stubble-burning and the Electricity Bill, which too we are willing to discuss,” he said.
When asked why the government did not yield in Parliament when some of these very changes were sought by Opposition members, or refer it to a select committee, Tomar said: “These are small Acts, which have been discussed and debated for years. Only complex legislation are referred to a select committee or a standing committee. In the UPA regime too, the then Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister were ready to undertake these reforms. There was a broad-based consensus among all political parties and states, which discussed these with farmers and other stakeholders.”
During the day, Tomar held discussions with BJP Kisan Morcha national president Rajkumar Chahar over the ongoing protests. Later in the evening, members of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Kisan) from Uttar Pradesh met him at Krishi Bhavan and welcomed the new farm laws, stating saying these will be beneficial for farmers. They also submitted a memorandum to the Agriculture Minister with suggestions regarding the farm laws and minimum support price (MSP).
In a separate development, a delegation of BJP MPs from Haryana met Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. The delegation submitted a memorandum demanding speedy completion of Satluj Yamuna Link Canal so that Haryana can get its share of water from Punjab.
Dharambir Singh, BJP MP from Bhiwani-Mahendragarh, who was part of the delegation told The Indian Express, “We submitted a six-point charter which included demands such as early construction of dams on river Yamuna and completion of SYL.”
This is the second time in the last two days that Haryana BJP leaders have raised the issue of SYL with Union ministers. On Monday, a delegation of BJP MPs and MLAs from the state had raised the same demand during a meeting with the Union Agriculture Minister.