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MSP Promise, End of Middlemen, Cong 'Hypocrisy': Inside BJP’s Mega Outreach to Furious Farmers

Farmers shout slogans as they block a national highway during a protest against agriculture-related bills brought by the central government, in Punjab’s Beas on September 16, 2020. (NARINDER NANU / AFP)

Farmers shout slogans as they block a national highway during a protest against agriculture-related bills brought by the central government, in Punjab’s Beas on September 16, 2020. (NARINDER NANU / AFP)

BJP chief JP Nadda and Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar have briefed party ministers and MPs to engage with farmers and assure them that MSP support would continue. They are also told to point out that the Congress had promised the same reforms but is now opposing the legislation for “political exploitation”.

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Payal Mehta

The ruling BJP has undertaken a mega outreach at various levels to placate angry farmers who have amplified protests against the contentious farm bills.

Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has spoken to central ministers and BJP MPs from Punjab, Haryana and the surrounding states, and held virtual meetings with agriculture ministers of NDA-ruled states, tasking them with taking the government’s position on the bills to farmers and common public.

Tomar has also reached out to the office-bearers of the RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Kisan Morcha and the Swadesi Jagaran Manch that have objected to the bills. He has briefed the state and national spokespersons of the party on the salient features of the bill, and a copy of the same has been sent to all party members by the BJP’s Parliament office.

While party national president JP Nadda has spearheaded the offensive against the opposition, the Union government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been seeking to reassure farmers that MSP support would continue. All BJP MPs have been instructed to hold press meets in their respective constituencies to blunt the opposition attack.

Here’s a look at what BJP ministers, lawmakers and leaders have been tasked with communicating to the famers and general public:

- The government maintains that the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 enables farmers to sell their finished crops to any merchant anywhere without compulsion to sell in the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandi of their own specific area. It says the legislation is part of the government’s “one nation, one market” vision.

- It says the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 seeks to provide a national framework on farming agreements that protects and empowers farmers to engage with agri-business firms wholesalers and exporters for farm services and sale of future farming produce at a mutually agreed remunerative price framework in a fair and transparent manner.

- The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, the government says, allows the central government to regulate the supply of certain food items only under extraordinary circumstances such as a national disaster or emergency. It adds that earlier moneylenders and businessmen used to buy crops from farmers in distress condition and some of them used to indulge in black-marketing.

The BJP says that the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 belongs to the age of controls. The Congress had promised to replace the act by an enabling law that can be invoked only in the case of emergencies. The party also promised to repeal the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC) Act. This is exactly what the Narendra Modi government has done. The Farming Produce Trade and Commerce Act seeks to allow barrier-free, inter- and intra-state trade of primary agricultural commodities.

BJP leaders point out that the Congress had promised to make trade in agricultural produce, including exports and inter-state trade, free from all restrictions, but is now opposing the bill and “provoking people with disinformation, misinformation, and indulging in political exploitation”.

The BJP says former prime minister Manmohan Singh had asked states in February 2012 to amend the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act, and had stated that such an amendment would result in free movement of agriculture produce through the country.


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