Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said the voice of India’s farmers was “suppressed” in Parliament when the recent controversial agricultural laws were passed, but said they will be heard in the Punjab Assembly, PTI reported. He was referring to the Punjab government’s decision to convene a special session of the Assembly on October 19 to bring in a legislation to counter the Centre’s farm laws.

Gandhi continued his attack on the Narendra Modi government, saying the recently-enacted farm laws “weaken” the country’s foundation. “These three laws are an attack on the soul of every farmer of this country, they are an attack on their sweat and blood,” he added. “And farmers and labourers of this country understand this.”

The Congress leader was delivering a virtual address at the launch of the second phase of the “Smart Village Campaign’’ in Punjab. Under this, Rs 2,663 crore has been allocated to execute approximately 50,000 different development works.

“If these laws were in favour of farmers and labourers, then why did the government not allow a debate before these were passed in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha,” Gandhi asked. “Why were they afraid of a debate? Entire country would have seen the debate and decided if these laws are for farmers’ benefit.”

While the Opposition has said the “anti-farmer” bills were passed in an undemocratic manner, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party accused them of disrupting parliamentary proceedings. But neither the Centre nor the Rajya Sabha chairperson and his deputy have offered an explanation as to why a division vote was not allowed on the farm bills, despite the fact that several parties were opposed to the bills.

Footage of Rajya Sabha TV revealed that Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s Tiruchi Siva and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader KK Ragesh were in their seats when they demanded a division of votes during the passage of two farming bills in the Upper House on September 20. Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Singh, however, had claimed that he denied the Opposition’s demand for a division of votes because the legislators were not seated when they asked.

Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien had also claimed that the Rajya Sabha TV feed was cut off while the House pushed the bills through, and Parliament rules were broken that day.

Gandhi said the Centre has launched an assault on Punjab and its farmers with these “ill-conceived” laws. “In Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, voice of India’s farmers was suppressed,” Gandhi continued. “I am happy that in Punjab assembly, farmers, labourers’ voice will be heard in the special session.”

The former Congress president accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of imposing the farm laws on the country without taking people at the grassroots into confidence.

“If we weaken country’’s foundation, India will be weakened. When Congress party fights, we do that to protect and strengthen the foundation. This is the difference between us and the central government. They talk of the building, but they thrust schemes from the top without talking to the panchayat and the people and their laws weaken India’s foundation. Every building has a foundation. If that weakens the building falls. If Vidhan Sabha is the building, panchayats and sarpanches are the foundation. If we have to develop Punjab or India, we have to protect the building and the foundation.”

— Rahul Gandhi

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who was also present at the virtual launch, said the state government will aggressively and effectively combat the damaging impact of the “black laws”.

The three ordinances – Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Ordinance 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Assurance and Farm Service Ordinance 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 – were passed in September. They were signed into law by President Ram Nath Kovind on September 27.

Critics say that these new agricultural policies will lead to farmers losing out on guaranteed purchase prices for their crops, to the benefit of large corporations. However, the government has repeatedly reiterated that the mechanism of procuring the produce of farmers at a guaranteed minimum rate would continue.