Nationalist Congress Party Sharad Pawar on Tuesday said that leaders of various political parties will discuss and take a collective stand on the farm laws before meeting President Ram Nath Kovind, PTI reported. Pawar had on Monday said that he would meet the president on Wednesday to discuss the contentious agricultural legislation.

“Tomorrow five-six people from different political parties are going to sit, discuss and take a collective stand...” Pawar said, according to NDTV. “We have a 5 pm appointment tomorrow with the President. We will present our collective stand before him.”

Leaders from 11 parties, including Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam parliamentarian TR Balu, Communist Party of India’s D Raja, Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s Sitaram Yechury and Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Manoj Jha, are expected to meet Kovind on Wednesday.

Various opposition parties had come out in support of the farmers’ protest and their call for Bharat Bandh, or a countrywide strike, on Tuesday. These included the Aam Aadmi Party, the Congress, the Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), Revolutionary Socialist Party and All India Forward Bloc. Telangana Rashtra Samithi and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam also extended their support to the bandh call.

The Bharatiya Janata Party had on Monday criticised the opposition for supporting the bandh, accusing them of “shameful double standards”. Citing several instances, the party claimed that the opposition had in the past supported provisions similar to the three new agriculture laws. 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.

Prasad also alleged that 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. Under the Centre’s new farm laws also, farmers can sell their produce directly in the market set up by private companies and individuals. The NCP, however, clarified its stance and said that Pawar took decisions with consensus and never imposed them on states.

On Tuesday, Pawar explained that he had called for certain reforms in the APMC, but refuted the BJP’s claims. “The APMC Act should continue but with reforms,” he said. “There is no doubt that I had written the letter. But their three Acts do not even mention APMC. They are just trying to divert the attention. There is no need to give importance.”

CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury on Monday came to Pawar’s defence, and accused the BJP of misleading the public, reported PTI. “What are they trying to prove by circulating then agricultural minister Sharad Pawar’s letter to the then Delhi Chief Minister?” he said. “Mr Pawar was only following the Constitutional norm of consultations, which the BJP violates with impunity.”

The farm law protests

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 continues and another round of negotiations is scheduled for December 9.