BJP plans farm outreach to counter Oppn’s drive
To counter the opposition’s campaign against farm laws enacted by the central government, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is planning an outreach to farmers that will include door-to-door Atmanirbhar Kisan (Self-Reliance Farmers) campaigns in rural India, public rallies, press conferences and social media broadcasts.
The initiative is aimed at what the BJP thinks is opposition propaganda based on “false and absurd” notions of the Narendra Modi government’s agricultural reforms, which it says will liberalise farm trade, enable farmers to earn more remunerative prices by selling their produce anywhere and benefit consumers by excluding middlemen.
In a letter to party MPs and top leaders, a copy of which has been seen by HT, BJP’s national general secretary Arun Singh said the historic farm laws passed by Parliament had freed farmers from the clutches of middlemen. Singh said that these reforms, along with earlier measures like soil health cards, crop insurance and increases in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) would all help in doubling the income of farmers.
“The opposition parties are spreading false and absurd rumours about it in their ulterior political motive,” Singh said in the letter.
Singh added that MSPs, government procurement and Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) will continue to exist while farmers gain wider market access.
On the directions of party chief J P Nadda and in a bid to dispel the concerns of farmers, the BJP has planned the mass awareness programme on the new legislation, which will be implemented in line with health protocols imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease, the letter said.
Among the activities planned are: door-to-door contact in the villages, public rallies in rural areas, seminars in every district, discussions with farming communities and agricultural bodies and also press conferences.
The party is also likely to encourage people to write appreciation or felicitation letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar for introducing the legislations. In addition, the BJP has also decided to take on its adversaries on social media turf.
The party has asked all its state leaders as well as its Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha MPs to chalk out programmes in the next two weeks as part of the campaign.
The three bills - the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Service Bill, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 - have become acts after President Ram Nath Kovind signed them into law.
Farmers, especially in Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting against the legislation, which the government says will enable them to sell their produce in any market of their choice rather than limit them to government-run mandis called APMCs. The protestors say the Centre’s farm reforms could pave the way for the dismantling of the MSP system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big companies.
The legislation seeks to give farmers the right to enter into a contract with agribusiness firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters and large retailers for the sale of future farming produce at pre-agreed prices. The amendment to the Essential Commodities Act will remove commodities like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onion and potato from the list of essential items and do away with the imposition of stock holding limits.
Eminent political scientist Nilanjan Sircar said “On one level, it [outreach] is extraordinary, given the advantages BJP has, they feel the need to take this step, which means at some level, their internal matrix are showing that the protest and the opposition are causing some problems on the ground for their popularity. I think the BJP has shown that it has the ability to change the narrative quite quickly”. He, however, added that it is not easy to convince people on a subject about which they already know a lot and that too from direct experience.