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As Congress Tries to Corner BJP on Farm Bills, Election Manifesto Puts Grand Old Party on Back Foot

Farmers hold placards during a demonstration following the passing of agriculture bills in the Lok Sabha, in Amritsar on Friday. (AFP)

Farmers hold placards during a demonstration following the passing of agriculture bills in the Lok Sabha, in Amritsar on Friday. (AFP)

The BJP has hit out at the rival party for "hypocrisy", citing evidence of the 2009 and 2014 manifestos of the Congress that mentioned repeal of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act.

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Pallavi Ghosh

A lot of thought and calculation has gone into the Narendra Modi government’s push for 'one nation, one market'. Sources say that the protests by farmers were being noticed by the government but it was convinced that the agitation didn't have enough popular support. The farm bills passed by the Lok Sabha on Thursday had their first political fallout with the BJP’s oldest ally, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), walking out of the Union Cabinet. The President didn’t take long to accept Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s resignation .

But the BJP is confident it won’t have much of a meltdown in Punjab and Haryana, the two states where farmers are protesting. The party has hit out at the Congress for "hypocrisy", citing evidence of the 2009 and 2014 manifestos of the Congress that mentioned repeal of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act.

The para 7, subclause 11 of the manifesto said, “Congress will repeal the Agricultural Produce Market Committee’s Act and make trade in agriculture produce-including export and inter-state trade-free from all restrictions”. Subclause 12 said, "We will establish farmers markets with adequate infrastructure and support in large villages and small towns to enable the farmer to bring his/her produce and freely market the same."

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, however, accuses the BJP of distorting facts. He told News18.com, "We didn’t think one APMC would help as India is a vast land. Our plan was to have many small markets or outlets where farmers could choose to sell their produce. The present bill doesn’t give the farmers this choice."

But what’s awkward for the Congress is a 2009 note of Raghuram Rajan, which Congress ministers incorporated in their proposal similar to the bills passed by the Modi government. He wrote:

In UPA 2, many ministers like P Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh were open to the idea of a free market. The Congress says given the Covid-19 crisis, the bills are ill-timed and will only add to the woes of the farmers. The party hopes to seize the pro-farmer narrative once again and show the BJP as 'anti-farmer', especially ahead of the Bihar and Bengal polls. The only thing is, the past seems to have caught up with the Congress.


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