New Delhi: More than 15 political parties have extended their support to the ‘Bharat Bandh’ Tuesday called by various farmer groups, while four BJP allies have voiced support to the farmer’s demands with regard to the Modi government’s farm laws.
The farmers from Punjab and Haryana have been protesting at the Delhi-Haryana border for over 11 days, with several rounds of talks with the government to resolve the deadlock failing to yield any result.
The BJP, meanwhile, has come under increasing pressure from its four allies — JJP, AIADMK, RLP and JD(U) — after they extended support to the farmers’ demand to repeal the three farm laws passed in September.
Cracks in NDA
In Haryana, the BJP is in an alliance with Dushyant Chautala-led Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), and seven of its 10 MLAs have voiced concerns over the farm laws and demanded a rollback.
Dushyant has, however, still maintained silence, while his father Ajay Singh Chautala has urged the Centre to add a line on MSP (minimum support price) in the laws.
One of the major demands of the protesting farmers is to make MSP a legal provision.
Another BJP ally in Rajasthan, Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) led by MP Hanuman Beniwal, has said he will take a call on its support to the NDA government after 9 December if it doesn’t consider the farmers’ demands.
The BJP-led NDA’s biggest ally, the Janata Dal (United), is also supporting the protesting farmers. The JD(U) had, however, voted in favour of the bills during their passage in Parliament.
JD(U) leader K.C. Tyagi told ThePrint that the farmers’ demand to include MSP in the laws is justified.
“The laws were passed in haste in Parliament without due scrutiny. This is a strange thing that MSP is not part of the laws in this country, and at many places farmers are selling their produce below MSP. The farmers’ demand is right to include MSP in laws, we support this demand,” he said.
“The farmers’ demand on contract farming and transparent resolution mechanism is also justified. We can’t hand over complaints to (government) officers. There should be an advisory board to redress complaints.”
The JD(U) leader also said the redressal mechanism should be limited to seven days instead of one month.
“Private procurement (of crops) should be avoided and it should not be an ego issue for the government to incorporate these changes. How they will do it is up to them to decide, but the narrative is not going well in favour of the NDA government,” he said.
The AIADMK, which is a part of the NDA, has also lent support to the agitating farmers. It had, however, opposed the passing of the bills.
AIADMK leader S.R. Balasubramaniam told ThePrint: “We had raised the issue of MSP during discussion (in Parliament) and stressed that the state will be a mute spectator after the passage of bills, which the farmers are raising now. Corporate sector will take over farming, which is the farmers’ concern right now. This should be addressed by the government either by repealing the laws or by amending or bringing in fresh laws.”
‘Laws will enhance cartelisation, govt must rectify it’
The BJD, TRS and BSP, which had supported the NDA government in passing several bills in the last six years, are also voicing concerns over the farmers’ protest.
The TRS has supported the Bharat Bandh. It was among those parties that had opposed the bills during their passage in the monsoon session.
The Naveen Patnaik-led BJD, which supported the government on the scrapping of Article 370 in J&K, is now supporting the farmers.
Party leader Pinaki Mishra told ThePrint they’re supporting the bandh and also the farmers’ demand to repeal the laws.
“We had earlier demanded that the farm bills should be sent to a select committee as they have many anomalies, which is now visible. The laws will enhance cartelisation, the government should rectify the anomalies,” he added.
On Sunday, as many as 11 parties, including the Congress, NCP, DMK, SP, CPI(M), CPI, CPI(ML), had issued a joint statement, extending support to the Bharat Bandh. On Monday, the TRS and BSP, among others, also extended their support to the bandh.
The signatories to the statement included Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi, DMK chief M.K. Stalin, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, SP leader Akhilesh Yadav, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary D. Raja, NC chief Farooq Abdullah, among others.
BJP ‘treading cautiously’
The BJP, meanwhile, is working on strategies to defuse the crisis — ranging from attacking political parties to branding the farmers’ agitation as political.
With so many political parties voicing support for the protesting farmers, it has given fodder to the BJP to say that the agitations carry a political motive.
Sources in the BJP, however, said they’re “treading cautiously” in the matter “knowing the sensitivity of the farmers’ agitation”.
“… with political parties now supporting the farmers, it has become easier now to deal with the agitation. It is easier to counter agitations supported by political parties knowing their contradictions and vested interests…,” said a BJP leader.
Meanwhile, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad Monday attacked the opposition on their “double standards”, saying they’re extending support to the protesting farmers to oppose the Modi government.
“This is not the question of farmers’ agitation. Whether it’s the CAA protests or Shaheen Bagh protest, they just stand up to protest as they have to oppose the Modi government. Farmer leaders have said that political leaders should not come in their protests, but they are still going and standing with them because they are finding an opportunity to oppose Modi,” he said while addressing the media in New Delhi.
He also attacked NCP chief Sharad Pawar, saying that “in a 2005 interview, Sharad Pawar had said that APMC Act will be abolished in six months”.
“He had further said that the states would not get financial support from the Government of India unless they are ready to amend the Act and allow the private sector to enter in this area,” Prasad said.
In a 2005 interview, Sharad Pawar had said that APMC Act will be abolished in six months. He had further said that the states would not get financial support from the Govt. of India unless they are ready to amend the Act and allow the private sector to enter in this area. pic.twitter.com/mdMXqRqhlA
— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) December 7, 2020
Prasad added a section of the farmers has fallen into the grip of a few people with “vested interests”.
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