The Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday accused Opposition parties of “shameful double standards” citing instances where it claimed that they supported provisions similar to the three new agriculture laws, PTI reported.

In a press conference, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad claimed that the Congress’ manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls had promised to repeal the Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act and make agri-trade free from all restrictions.

He added that in 2013, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had given direction to all chief ministers of Congress-ruled states to delist fruits and vegetables from the APMC [Agricultural Produce Market Committee] and allow them to sell it directly in the open market.

Prasad also alleged that Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, during his tenure as the Union Agriculture Minister, had written to chief ministers, advocating for greater participation of the private sector in the farm sector. “In a 2005 interview, Sharad Pawar had said the APMC Act will be abolished in six months,” Prasad said. “He had further said that the states would not get financial support from the Centre unless they are ready to amend the Act and allow the private sector to enter the field.” But the NCP dismissed the allegations and alleged that the BJP was trying to confuse people.

He said contract farming was also recommended during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government’s regime and several state governments implemented contract farming in their states. He also attacked Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for opposing the new laws, after notifying them.

The Centre’s rebuttal to the Opposition’s criticism of the new farm laws came a day ahead of the “Bharat Bandh” that has been backed by several parties. The Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, four Left parties, Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Nationalist Congress Party, Samajwadi Party and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam are among the parties who have extended their support.

Prasad said the Opposition parties have joined the agitation in a bid to save their existence after being repeatedly rejected by people in different elections across the country. He further said a section of farmers had fallen prey to some people with “vested interests” and asserted that the government was working to address their reservations about the reforms.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath also attacked the Opposition parties over their support of the “Bharat Bandh”, reported the Hindustan Times. “The opposition parties are trying to mislead innocent farmers on the Centre’s revolutionary and historic laws to further their selfish political ends,” Adityanath said.

The farm laws

The Parliament had passed 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 – in September. They were signed into laws by President Ram Nath Kovind on September 27.

Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have camped out at the entrance to Delhi for over ten days, demanding the government should abolish the new legislations. They fear the new policies could pave the way for the government to stop buying grains at guaranteed prices, leaving them at the mercy of big corporations.

The Centre, which claims the laws would revitalise India’s agrarian economy by boosting produce, has made several attempts to placate the farmers. But five rounds of talks have failed to break the impasse so far. The agitation continued and another round of negotiations is scheduled for December 9.