The priority of the government is to get the farm bills passed in Rajya Sabha.
New Delhi: With Prime Minister Narendra Modi strongly defending the farm bills, it is now abundantly clear that the government is not going to yield to pressure being created by the Opposition parties against the three bills that “seek to liberalise the agricultural markets”. There are ample indications that the government is going to be on the offensive against the Opposition over the initiative aimed at “farm reforms”.
The priority of the government is to get the farm bills passed in Rajya Sabha so that it could become a law. The government’s managers are of the firm belief that the Opposition parties won’t be able to create any substantial hurdle regarding the farm bills like they successfully did with regard to the land acquisition amendment bill in the past. Politics has undergone a sea change since 2014, as the principal Opposition party Congress has got weaker and is clueless in the current situation.
What makes the government confident is the fact that its key ally JDU is backing the legislation. Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MP and Harsimrat Kaur Badal may have resigned from the Narendra Modi government over her party’s differences with the three farm bills, but the party is still with the government.
Whatever stand the SAD is taking is attributed to the compulsions of politics in Punjab over these bills. Sources said that even if the SAD goes to the extent of walking out of the NDA, it will happen under a well-conceived political strategy. The Assembly polls in Punjab are scheduled for 2022 and SAD is politically weak there due to the old age of Parkash Singh Badal. With that in view, his son and daughter-in-law want to re-energise the party by way of politics on issues related to agriculture and farmers. Therefore, the farm bills may have given Harsimrat Badal that opportunity.
Meanwhile, the Central government and BJP are least bothered about the politics of Punjab. Their main focus is on Bihar and West Bengal. Bihar will go to polls in the next couple of months, while Assembly elections in Bengal will be held in 2021. It is certain that the first test of the farm bills will be in Bihar polls. BJP’s ally JDU is fully with the government on these bills. Talking to The Sunday Guardian, senior JDU leader K.C. Tyagi said that his party is with the government. He added that it will be better if what the PM has said on MSP is added to the bills so that it can become a part of the law. Sources said that the BJP is happy with whatever report it is getting from Bihar where the NDA is united over the farm bills. Sources say that the NDA will have no problem in winning Bihar elections as the Opposition is weak and scattered there.
If the BJP passes the first test on farm bills in Bihar, then it will try to make maximum advantage of that in Bengal. That the TMC and Congress are going to fight against each other in Bengal encourages the BJP. There is also less possibility of the farm bills becoming a major issue in Bengal, say sources.
In the meantime, the government will intensify its campaign to send its message across the farming community, saying that the law which comes into existence after passing the farm bills will ring in the end of the exploitation of farmers in markets (mandis). But there are suggestions that the government should ensure MSP benefits to farmers, rights to FCI like before and ban on contract systems, and all these points should be incorporated in what comes out as a law. The statements of PM Modi and Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar suggest that the government may add these points in the legislation for the benefit of farmers.
Senior BJP leader and MP Varun Gandhi told The Sunday Guardian that PM Narendra Modi has done away with the exploitation of farmers, which has been continuing for several years. He further said that the Opposition is trying to misguide the farmers for political gains. After the law comes into existence, the farmers will be able to sell their produce at the prices fixed by them, Varun Gandhi added. Even the small farmer will be benefited immensely by this law, said the BJP MP, asking the Opposition parties not to go against this legislation.
Farmers’ leader Dr Krishan Bir Chaudhary, who is also a BJP sympathiser, said that these bills are not in the interest of the farmers until the MSP benefit clause is added to it. However, the government is not going to face any difficulty as far as passing the three farm bills in the Upper House is concerned. The Opposition is not united, with no possibility of SP, BSP and Congress joining hands against the bills. Congress can definitely protest in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Punjab, where it is in power. The Congress units in Punjab and Rajasthan have started staging massive protests. The problem with the Congress is that it is not united itself, with groupism and factionalism derailing its protests in many states. Congress’ former president Rahul Gandhi’s protest is just symbolic on Twitter. The first tweet that came from the Gandhi scion on Saturday was on Swaraj and nationalism.