Opposition to corner government on MSP, fuel in winter session
At least three Opposition MPs maintained that “many uncomfortable questions will be raised” when the acts are brought for withdrawal
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement on Friday to repeal the three farm laws 14 months after their passage by Parliament was seen by many as a step to cut further political damage but a showdown between government and Opposition legislators is imminent in 10 days’ time when the motion for repeal is moved in the winter session.
Opposition parties that entered the fray last year to cash in on the political momentum built by roadside sit-in and “rail roko” protests organised by farmer unions in north India appear to be in no mood to cede the moral high ground to the government when the House sits from November 29 to December 23. The floor strategy will be centred around, retrospectively, highlighting that the problem was of the Centre’s own making and, prospectively, cornering the government on issues of legally guaranteed minimum support prices and heavy tax burden on fuel products, said leaders of the Opposition who did not wish to be named.
At least three Opposition MPs maintained that “many uncomfortable questions will be raised” when the acts are brought for withdrawal. According to the rules, the government will have to seek the permission of both Houses of Parliament to repeal the laws.
The Trinamool’s Derek O’Brien pointed out that there is “still work to be done in Parliament” and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury demanded that “Parliament whilst repealing the three farm laws must enact MSP as a legal right. Over 750 farmers martyred yet PM expresses no remorse”.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former party chief Rahul Gandhi indicated that the fight against the BJP over farmers’ welfare will continue. In her statement, Sonia Gandhi said, “The BJP government has continuously attacked the farming community in the last seven years…whether it is the refusal to pay the farmer the cost +50% profit as promised by the Prime Minister, or the huge increase in the cost of diesel and agricultural products, or the attack of three black anti-farming laws.”
Rahul, in his letter to the farmers, said, “The struggle is not over yet. Getting remunerative MSP for agricultural produce, ending the controversial Electricity Amendment Act, reducing tax burden on everything used for farming, reducing the unexpected hike in diesel prices and the debt burden are serious issues.”
This is the second time that the NDA government has had to backtrack on reforms that affected the farmers. In 2015, after two successive ordinances to make land laws more industry-friendly, PM Modi announced on August 31, 2015 that the law would be allowed to lapse.
While the Congress party announced it would celebrate November 20 as “Kisan Vijay Diwas” (farmers’ victory day), the party’s legal expert Abhishek Singhvi questioned, “Why the government didn’t bring an ordinance on Friday to nullify the laws. Are farmers less important than the two agency chiefs?” referring to the recent ordinances providing for extending the terms of the Enforcement Directorate and Central Bureau of Investigation chiefs.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted, “My heartfelt congratulations to every single farmer who fought relentlessly and were not fazed by the cruelty with which BJP treated you. This is YOUR VICTORY!” and the party’s Rajya Sabha floor leader Derek O’Brien said, “Glad the true heroes, the farmers, have still NOT called off their protest. TV monologue will not do. Still work to be done in #Parliament.”