The BJP hit back at protesting farmers and the opposition today with nuggets of the past, reminding them that allowing private players into the farm sector was their demand not so long ago. The BJP has been under attack over the new farm sector laws, where corporates have been given a big role, hugely upsetting the farmers.
BL Santosh, the general secretary of the BJP, tweeted an article from Punjab-based English daily the Tribune today, headlined “Allow corporates to procure wheat: Farmers”.
“This was in 2008. Farmers of Punjab & Haryana demanding allowing of corporates in agri marketing. Just understand the duplicity of the same unions now,” read the accompanying tweet, which carried the hashtag #FarmersWithModi.
— B L Santhosh (@blsanthosh) December 6, 2020
Documents of opposition support to private sector entry into agriculture have also surfaced.
In November 2011, Sharad Pawar, then minister of agriculture, had urged states to give a green signal to private mandis. A letter to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, read: “There is a need to amend the present APMC Act on the lines of the Model APMC Act of 2003 in order to encourage private sector investment in marketing infrastructure and providing alternate, competing marketing channels in the overall interest of farmers, consumers and the agricultural trade”.
For more than 10 days, the farmers have been on the warpath, with tens of thousands camping out at the entrances of Delhi. Several rounds of talks with the protesters have failed. The next round will be on Wednesday – a day after the all-India strike called by farmers and supported by the opposition and trade unions.
The BJP has contended that the “real” farmers are with the government and support the farm sector laws. Those protesting are either brainwashed by the opposition Congress or anti-nationals. The word “Khalistanis” has also been raised in this context. Asked about the possibility of “Khalistani elements” being mixed up in the farmers’ protest, Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar had said, “We have inputs of some such unwanted elements in the crowd,” news agency ANI had reported.
Mr Khattar’s state had drawn much criticism for its use of force on farmers, who had to fight water cannons, tear gas and barricades repeatedly on their way to Delhi. Soon after, Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh Badal accused Mr Khattar of seeking to “defame farmers and their agitation”.
“SAD strongly condemns Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar’s statement terming our peasants who are agitating against the anti-farmer laws as Khalistanis. This is a conspiracy to defame the farmers and their agitation to pave the way for its repression with brutal force,” his tweet read.
The new laws, aimed at doing away with middlemen and allowing farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country, has deeply upset the farmers. The farmers say it will only result in phasing out of the traditional mandis and the guaranteed minimum price paid by the government, leaving them at the mercy of the corporates.