It is now an open secret that political parties including the Congress and Left are instigating farmers not to call off their month-long dharna at Delhi borders. They do not want the farmer leaders to rejoin talks with the Centre, find and a way out and return home. This became clear from the remarks made by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Left farmers’ union leader Hannan Mollah. Both of them clearly said that the farmers will continue their agitation until and unless the three new farm laws are withdrawn.
On Thursday, Rahul Gandhi along with his two leaders, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury met the President and handed him a memorandum seeking withdrawal of the farm laws. The leaders wanted to march from Vijay Chowk to Rashtrapati Bhavan with their party MPs, but were prevented by Delhi police due to Coronavirus pandemic. The President allowed only three Congress leaders to give him the memorandum. Police detained Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and other Congress MPs when they tried to force their way through the barricades. They were later released.
Outside the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Rahul Gandhi said, he handed over the memorandum signed by more than two crore farmers. In the memorandum, the party demanded convening of a special session of Parliament to repeal the three farm laws. Rahul repeated his old allegations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was trying to help two or three of his “industrialist friends” by bringing these farm laws, but the farmers would not tolerate. The Congress stands by the agitating farmers, he said.
In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Thursday night, we showed video clips of three speeches made by Rahul Gandhi, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and former PM Dr Manmohan Singh on the farmers’ issues nine years ago.
On December 16, 2011, in Farrukhabad, UP, Rahul Gandhi was explaining the benefits of “open market” to farmers. At that time, Dr Manmohan Singh was the PM and the UPA government was in power. Rahul told the public meeting: “Potato growers here are facing difficulties. Nearly 60 per cent vegetables rot in India due to lack of proper storage. We want FDI in retail so that farmers can sell their produce directly to the buyers. The Opposition prevented us from bringing this bill in Parliament. The opposition is anti-farmer.”
For the last six years, we have been constantly watching Rahul Gandhi alleging that PM Modi was working at the behest of industrialists like Ambani and Adani, but what about the 10 years of UPA rule prior to that? At that time, every Congress leader, including Rahul, was speaking in favour of private and foreign investment in the farming sector.
On November 4, 2012, addressing a Congress rally at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan, the then PM Dr Manmohan Singh had said: “There has been a lot of debate on our government’s decision to allow foreign direct investment in retail sector. The Congress Party, my government and I believe that this decision is in the national interest. It will help both farmers and common people. Today, much of the vegetables produced go waste because of lack of transportation and storage facilities. Allowing FDI in retail will help overcome these problems to a large extent. Our farmer brother can get better earnings for their produce. Their crops will reach markets directly and common people can buy vegetables and fruits at cheaper rates.”
Congress President Sonia Gandhi had clearly said on several occasions that the farmers of India are poor because they do not get remunerative prices. She had said, farmers are poor because they have been made bonded slaves of ‘mandis’, and they can get better prices only if they are freed from the clutches of middlemen. This can happen only if farmers are allowed to sell their produce anywhere and at any rate throughout India, Sonia Gandhi had said at that point of time.
On October 3, 2012, Sonia Gandhi said: “Farmers’ produce are bought at cheaper rates and sold at higher prices in cities. I want to ask, should not farmers get the right to sell their crops at better rates? Should not people living in cities have the right to get essential commodities at cheaper rates? When will this happen? This will happen only when we allow farmers to sell their crops directly in cities.”
While going through these remarks, one can get the impression that these might have been made by a minister from Modi government on its new farm laws. If you go through the speeches of Rahul Gandhi, Sonia and Dr Manmohan Singh, you will find a common thread – all the three leaders had then wanted that farmers must be given the right to sell their produce anywhere in the country and the role of middlemen should be abolished. They had also spoken in support of foreign and private investment in the farm sector. But today, Rahul Gandhi is speaking the opposite of what he had said nine years ago.
On Thursday, while replying to Rahul Gandhi’s allegations, BJP leader Sudhanshu Trivedi said, Congress must explain why it allowed Pepsi and Nestle India to procure crops directly from farmers 32 years ago.
The BJP is correct when it says that the Congress had allowed multinational companies to enter the farm sector 32 years ago. BJP leaders are correct when they say that Rahul, Sonia and Dr Manmohan Singh had been speaking in favour of contract farming and private and foreign investment in farm sector. When they were in power, they had called for abolition of the role of middlemen in farming.
Then why this U-turn? I feel, Rahul might be harbouring this impression that the farmers from Punjab, Haryana and UP, who are sitting on dharna for last one month, might have forgotten what he and his party leaders had said nine years ago. Rahul and his party leaders only want to take political advantage of the current standoff between the farmers and the Centre.
The single point agenda of the Congress and the Left is to train their guns at the Centre by using the shoulders of farmers. They have nothing to do with farmers’ interests, neither with MSPs or ‘mandis’. While Rahul injects the names of Ambani and Adani in his speeches, the Left parties try to bring in the demand for release of Sharjeel Imam and Varvara Rao, who are in custody on sedition charges.
My advice to those who are real farmers is this: they must understand the whole gamut of issues with a balanced outlook. They should understand what is in their best interest. Between the two available options of talks and confrontation, talks are the best way out. The farmers must not allow any political party to gain advantage from their agitation. The political parties will not allow their agitation to end until and unless it suits their political interests.
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