Rajnath's 'Mai bhi Kisan' Response as Farmers Plan Big Stir Over Farm Bills, Cong Smells BJP Plot in RS Row

Farmers protest the three agriculture bills in Parliament in Amritsar, Punjab. (PTI)

Farmers protest the three agriculture bills in Parliament in Amritsar, Punjab. (PTI)

The BJP and Congress held back-to-back press conferences and blamed each other for tarnishing Parliament’s image over the passage of the farm-sector bills in the Rajya Sabha.

In back-to-back high-profile press conferences, both the BJP and Congress blamed each other for tarnishing Parliament’s image because of what transpired in the Rajya Sabha on Sunday as two contentious farm bills -- Farmer's Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 -- were passed amid massive ruckus through voice vote. A number of protests were also staged during the day by farmers in several places, especially Punjab and Haryana, against the bills.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh flanked by five other Union Cabinet ministers addressed a press conference on Sunday evening and condemned the alleged misbehaviour with Deputy Chairperson Harivansh Narayan Singh by opposition members. He said “democracy was shamed” by the conduct of Opposition MPs in the Upper House of Parliament, while adding that he too is a farmer and nobody should believe the government would do anything to hurt the farmers.

Minutes later, the Congress said the members were upset with the way the bills were being passed, while noting that everyone went in the well of the House, including BJP leaders, and called it a conspiracy by the ruling party.

Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the same Parliament to which Prime Minister Narendra Modi had bowed his head after coming to power had been shamed by the conduct of his ministers.

The passing of the two farm bills has set several political events in motion. While the Congress-led opposition has moved a no-confidence motion against Rajya Sabha’s deputy chairperson, BJP sources say footage from the House proceedings was “being examined in all details to see which MPs are up to what,” based on which actions, such as privilege motion against the errant members, will be moved.

In the press conference of the six Union Cabinet Ministers, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi alleged that voting through division that opposition MPs had been asking for was not allowed because all of them were away from their seats protesting in the well of the House.

Around the same time, Congress general secretary KC Venugopal levelled serious allegations of impropriety against the BJP and the deputy chairperson saying their general secretary Bhupender Yadav was seen whispering into the ear of Harivansh Singh, while opposition members were demanding the Rajya Sabha session be adjourned. “I just saw the senior ministers’ statements. They should have condemned the action of the deputy chairperson. The entire episode is a conspiracy built by the BJP,” he said.

Rajnath Singh said, “To go straight to the chair of the deputy chairperson, to stand right by his chair, to tear apart the rule book there… It is unprecedented in the history of the Parliament. It is an even bigger shame that it happened in what is known as the House of Elders. Not only have the guilty MPs besmirched their own characters, they have also hurt the esteem of India’s Parliament.”

Trinamool Congress’ Derek O’ Brien, who has been accused of tearing up the Parliament’s rule book and who has denied the allegations, meanwhile alleged that the government prevented a trust vote on the bills since the government knew it did not have the requisite numbers.

Several opposition parties, including the Congress and AAP, whose MP Sanjay Singh was carried out by marshals as he was protesting in the well, have called for a nationwide stir against the bills even the Prime Minister and his cabinet called the passing of the bills through the Rajya Sabha a “watershed moment” for the country’s farmers.

Meanwhile, Haryana Deputy Chief Minister and president of the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) Dushyant Chautala has threatened to pull out support from the Manohar Khattar-led BJP government if the bills threaten the system of minimum support price (MSP) for farmers.

Hundreds of farmer unions across Punjab and Haryana have called for multiple protests in the coming days, including a total shutdown on the 25 September.

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