Oppn leaders to meet President on Wednesday to seek repeal of farm laws
Leaders from different opposition parties are likely to meet President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday over the ongoing farmers’ agitation and also express their concerns over the three new agriculture laws enacted by the Centre in September and seek their repeal.
On Tuesday, the Congress said it was not against farm sector reforms, but those brought in through the three new farm laws do not reflect those changes. The party also reiterated its demand for a special Parliament session to scrap these laws.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar said the opposition leaders will meet to discuss the issue and formulate a collective stand on the contentious farm laws before meeting the President at 5 pm.
“Tomorrow 5-6 people from different political parties are going to sit, discuss and take a collective stand. We will present our collective stand before the President,” he said.
Apart from the NCP, the other opposition parties likely to join the meeting include the Congress, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M), the Communist Party of India (CPI), the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC), which is a last-minute addition to the delegation.
The opposition parties also supported Tuesday’s ‘Bharat bandh’ called by the farmers’ unions against the three new agriculture laws.
Besides Pawar, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary D Raja and TKS Elangovan of the DMK will meet the President.
On Tuesday, Pawar met defence minister Rajnath Singh and the two are said to have discussed the land acquisition for the Purandar airport in Pune district.
The ongoing protests by farmers have triggered a war of words between the government and the opposition parties.
Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday said Pawar as the agriculture minister in the UPA government had asked states to amend the APMC Act and had even warned them that the Centre will not provide financial assistance in absence of the three reforms.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also cited letters written by Pawar at that time to chief ministers in this regard.
However, Pawar said the BJP is trying to divert attention by creating controversy over his letters written, asking the chief ministers to amend the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act.
“I had said the APMC Act should continue but needed some reforms. There is no doubt that I had written the letter. But the new laws do not even mention APMC. BJP is just trying to divert the attention. No need to give importance,” he said at a press conference in Delhi.
Meanwhile, former Haryana chief minister and senior Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda said agriculture reforms should be discussed afresh in Parliament and new laws enacted after consulting all stakeholders.
He said the minimum support price (MSP) mechanism has to be incorporated in the law to protect the interest of farmers.
He alleged the farm laws brought in by the BJP-led government were passed without any consultation with farmers, and these were pushed through amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are not against reforms but current laws must be immediately repealed and a fresh reform process initiated after consultations with all stakeholders and discussion in Parliament,” Hooda told mediapersons at a press conference.
He wondered why the government did not agree to the opposition demand of bringing another law to punish those buying farm produce below the MSP.
The former chief minister also alleged the BJP-led Haryana government has lost the trust of the people and of the assembly as it “mishandled” the farmers’ agitation.
“I have written to the governor demanding immediate convening of the Haryana assembly as the state government has insulted farmers and lost the trust of the people,” he said.
Hooda said the Congress would move a no-confidence motion against the Manohar Lal Khattar government as a large number of its supporting legislators have backed the farmers’ protest.
He also said the 2019 Congress manifesto promising abolition of the APMC act was being “misrepresented” by the BJP.
“We had promised to create procurement centres and mandis in nearby areas for farmers. We did that in Haryana, some even in a village with a small population of 10,000,” Hooda said.