The UPA government at the Centre was on Thursday facing a big challenge as thousands of farmers owing allegiance to Mahendra Singh Tikait and Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal flocked to Jantar Mantar in Delhi, throwing vehicular traffic in disarray, to protest sugarcane pricing.
As Samajwadi Party supreme Mulayam Singh Yadav, RLD chief Ajit Singh and other assorted leaders pitched in to show solidarity with sugarcane farmers, the BJP, SP and RLD blocked the first day's proceedings in Lok Sabha, leading to adjournment of the House till Friday.
BJP's outgoing chief Rajnath Singh warned that his party would not allow the House to function till the sugarcane farmers' woes were not resolved.
Soon after Lok Sabha's adjournment, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met with Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to discuss the need to water down several provisions of the Sugarcane Ordinance. Discussions were still on towards the afternoon.
RLD leader Anuradha Chaudhary alleged that Sharad Pawar was only catering to the interests of Maharashtra sugarcane lobby and was not ready to solve the problems of sugarcane farmers in western UP. She warned that her supporters would not allow Parliament to function if their grievances were not met.
SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav alleged that the UPA government was throttling the farmers' interest in UP.
PTI adds : In an interesting development, DMK, a key ally of the ruling UPA coalition, on Thursday came out against the Centre's new sugarcane pricing policy which has triggered a controversy and angered several opposition parties.
The Sugarcane Control (Amendment) Order 2009 Ordinance has changed the sugarcane pricing policy, fixing a uniform Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) which would put the burden on states if they choose to pay more than FRP to farmers.
"If there is a structured and regulated discussion on sugarcane issue, we will participate in it and vent our feelings because the Central government has not taken the state governments into confidence," senior DMK leader T R Baalu told PTI.
Baalu and Telecom Minister A Raja met Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee immediately after the Lok Sabha was adjourned on the issue on the opening day of the Winter Session. The DMK leaders were believed to have conveyed their party's reservation on the issue.
In the past, several states used to announce State Advisory Price (SAP), over and above the Statutory Minimum Price (SMP) of the Centre. Importantly the differential was borne by the mills. The new system would discourage the states to announce their SAPs as they have to bear the burden.
Baalu said his party is opposed to concept of state bearing the difference between the FRP and SAP. "we are opposed to it and the state governments should be taken into confidence".
Almost all opposition parties including BJP, RJD, SP, RLD and AIADMK opposed Centre's new sugarcane policy.