Bharatiya Janata Party President Jagat Prakash Nadda on Sunday shared a 2015 video of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s speech in Lok Sabha to assert that he was misleading the farmers protesting against the new farm laws. The Congress, however, responded to Nadda saying that while the party wanted reforms in the farm sector, it was still against the three “black laws”.
In the video from 2015, Gandhi recalled a conversation he had with a potato farmer from Uttar Pradesh. The politician added that the farmer had said he could get a better price for his crop if he did not have to go through middlemen, and sell directly to factories that make potato chips.
On Sunday, Nadda shared the video and criticised the former Congress chief. “What is this magic happening Rahul ji,” he tweeted in Hindi. “You are opposing now what you had advocated earlier. You have nothing to do with the country’s or farmers’ interests. You have to play politics only. But this is your bad luck that your hypocrisy will not work. People of the country and farmers have recognised your double standards.”
The BJP has maintained that the Congress wanted to pass similar legislations to the three new farm laws. Several leaders of the saffron party have accused the Sonia Gandhi-led Congress of hypocrisy.
Hours after Nadda’s tweet, Congress national spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala defended Gandhi. “We also want reforms in farm sector but the question is [about] the impact [the] three black laws have had on farmers,” he tweeted. Surjewala also pointed out that Gandhi had spoken only about removing middlemen from the equation as they take a share into the farmers’ profits.
The Congress leader’s speech focused on the importance of creating food-related industrial units in Uttar Pradesh. Surjewala added that “before spreading lies” Nadda should be aware that potatoes do not have a minimum support price.
What are the three farm laws?
The Parliament 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.
Taken together, the three legislations loosen regulations on the sale, pricing and storage of agricultural produce. They allow farmers to sell outside mandis notified by the Agricultural Produce Market Committee. They enable contract farming through deals with private sector companies. They take food items like cereals and pulses off the list of essential commodities, lifting stock limits on such produce.
Farmers and traders have alleged that the government wants to discontinue the minimum support price regime in the name of reforms. They fear that the laws will leave them at the mercy of corporate powers. The government has maintained that farm laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.
The government claims the new laws would give farmers the freedom to sell in the open market. But farmers say the laws will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, leave farmers to the mercy of market forces and threaten food security.
Most Opposition parties and farmers’ organisations across the country have strongly opposed the bills. The Shiromani Akali Dal, one of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s oldest allies, pulled out of the National Democratic Alliance in protest against these bills. Opposition parties have also urged President Ram Nath Kovind to ask the government to accept farmers’ demands.