BJP plans to step up outreach on new laws
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to step up its drive to reach out to farmers across the country in a bid to dispel concerns about the newly enacted farm laws even as protests against the legislations reached the Capital on Friday, a person familiar with the matter said.
The party carried out a 15-day campaign wherein senior leaders, ministers, MPs and party functionaries reached out to farmers explaining the intricacies of the new laws in September, following Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s instructions to BJP cadres to spread awareness.
“The Prime Minister urged BJP workers to reach out to farmers on the ground and explain the importance of the laws. This exercise was carried out across the country...and farmers were explained the benefits they stand to get from the new laws. However, given the Opposition’s attempt to mislead the farmers, this exercise will be renewed,” said another party functionary aware of the details.
As protesting farmers continued with the Dilli Chalo march on Friday and faced teargas shells, water cannons and police batons at the Haryana-Delhi interstate border, the party is concerned about the impact that the tussle will have on the ground. The BJP does not want the protests to cast a shadow over its claims of drafting pro-farmer policies.
Senior ministers have been urged to initiate dialogue with farmers’ unions to get them to call off the stir. Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar told ANI that the government was ready to discuss all issues with farmers. “We have invited farmers’ organisations for another round of talks on December 3. I appeal to them to leave the agitation in view of Covid-19 and the winter,” he said.
Even as the Opposition has said the new laws do not protect farmers’ rights and are meant to favour select corporate entities, the BJP has blamed the Congress for creating such misapprehensions. Congress-ruled states such as Punjab and Rajasthan have drafted their own laws to circumvent the central laws.
The BJP refers to its recent electoral victory in the Bihar assembly elections and the Madhya Pradesh bypolls as evidence of support for its policies. “The Opposition has been misleading farmers. If the farmers were not convinced by the laws then the party would not have won elections in Bihar, Gujarat and MP where farmers are in good numbers,” said Rajkumar Chahar, head of the BJP’s Kisan Morcha.
Chahar cited a tweet by Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as proof of the party misleading the farmers. “She (Gandhi) said the laws take away the MSP, which is grossly incorrect. She says the laws will favour the big players, which is also incorrect. The laws empower farmers with small holdings; they seek to increase farm incomes, and the only ones who will not benefit are the middlemen,” Chahar said.
On Thursday, Gandhi tweeted that the government instead of listening to the voice of the farmers was attacking them with water cannons. “Everything is being taken away from the farmers and banks, loan waivers, airport railway stations are being distributed to the capitalists,” she tweeted.
On the police action, Chahar said, “Capt Amarinder (Punjab CM) should have realised that Delhi is in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic and by pushing the farmers to protest and come out in large numbers, violating social distancing norms, he has put their lives in danger.”
The protesting farmers, however, questioned the urgency behind enacting the laws in the middle of the pandemic (the bills were passed in Parliament’s monsoon session) and the said the government should have waited if it was serious about controlling the spread of the virus.
The Congress has come out in support of the farmers. It sent senior leader Randeep Singh Surjewala to Panipat before daybreak on Friday where he assured protesting groups of the party’s support. Surjewala tweeted, “The Congress party stands firmly with farmers. Is Delhi made only for those who protect the vault of a handful of capitalists? Is the capital of India not the right of the farmer to Delhi? Why did the farmers become so hated today?’’
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