Farmers’ protest: Mann’s inclusion in negotiating panel irks Punjab BJP | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Farmers’ protest: Mann’s inclusion in negotiating panel irks Punjab BJP

By, New Delhi
Feb 21, 2024 07:34 AM IST

On Tuesday, Punjab BJP chief Sunil Jakhar laid the blame for the failure of the latest round of talks between farmers and the government at the door of state chief minister Bhagwant Mann, whose inclusion in the panel meeting farmers surprised many people.

On Tuesday, Punjab BJP chief Sunil Jakhar laid the blame for the failure of the latest round of talks between farmers and the government at the door of state chief minister Bhagwant Mann, whose inclusion in the panel meeting farmers surprised many people.

Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann. (AAP Punjab/X)
Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann. (AAP Punjab/X)

“With Bhagwant Mann himself, of all people, acting as the lawyer for the farmers, these negotiations were destined to fail – because CM Mann had every thing to gain from the failure of these talks. Not only would he now be able to show the central government in bad light but also redirect those farmers also to Delhi who had initially wanted to march to Chandigarh. And sure enough, he has succeeded in this mission by jeopardising the sincere efforts of both the farmers and the central ministerial team to arrive at a solution,” Jakhar said in a post on X.

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On Monday night, the farmers rejected the offer from the government that promised contract-based procurement of five crops at MSP for five years and said they would not budge from their demand for legislative backing for the minimum support price regime. They have also threatened to march to Delhi.

Captain Amarinder Singh met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi on Monday, and one of the issues that came up was the farmers’ protest. The former Punjab chief minister was with the Congress during the 2020-2021 farm agitation which lasted 16 months and the big difference between that and the current round of protests which started last week, is that the current chief minister of Punjab is now sitting with Union ministers to talk to farmers’ groups. Central ministers Piyush Goyal, Arjun Munda and Nityanand Rai are the others in the panel.

Mann’s inclusion hasn’t gone down well with the local unit of the BJP, which complained to the national general secretary (organisation) BL Santhosh who was visiting the state last week. The party state unit told Santhosh that the inclusion of chief minister Mann had focussed public anger only towards the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP), while creating a win-win situation for Mann. “If the farmers called off their protest, he could claim credit. And if they didn’t, they will anyway blame the centre,’’ one state BJP leader said on condition of anonymity. One of the things, local BJP leaders pointed out was that in the last round of agitation, chief minister Amarinder Singh deftly herded protesters away from the state. Now that he was part of the BJP organisation, he should have been deployed instead of Mann to talk to farmer groups, they added.

Capt Amarinder said he “had a detailed meeting with PM Narendra Modi ji on wide-ranging issues related to Punjab, including the issues concerning the farmers”. He expressed confidence that the issue would be resolved soon to everybody’s satisfaction.

However, his aides admit that there has been a marked difference between the way Amarinder dealt with the Centre and the way Mann deals with them. “You can say that CM Mann has taken a more conciliatory attitude towards the Centre,’’ said a person who served in Captain Amarinder’s team.

There are others who believe that Mann, who served as a Sangrur member of Parliament from 2014, shares a rapport with home minister Amit Shah. An AAP spokesperson told HT that there was nothing unusual about this. “He has as much proximity as required. He wants that farmers should be comfortable and he’s doing what he can.’’

But with farmers at his doorstep, Jakhar wasn’t impressed . “Punjab wonders who gave the vakalat nama (authority) to represent the farmers to such a person -- who has not only backtracked on his promise to provide MSP within five minutes of the formation of his government but has also cheated Punjab farmers on the compensation for flood damage.’’

HT has reached out to the agriculture minister Munda’s office for comment.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Sunetra Choudhury is the National Political Editor of the Hindustan Times. With over two decades of experience in print and television, she has authored Black Warrant (Roli,2019), Behind Bars: Prison Tales of India’s Most Famous (Roli,2017) and Braking News (Hachette, 2010). Sunetra is the recipient of the Red Ink award in journalism in 2016 and Mary Morgan Hewett award in 2018.

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