Rajat Sharma

Farmers must realize, Congress and Left are using them for their own political agenda

akbIn his no-holds-barred attack on the Opposition on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleged that political parties were misguiding farmers who are agitating against the new farm laws. Addressing farmers for the second time in a week, Modi accused West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee of “depriving” 70 lakh farmers of direct cash benefit in her state. He also accused the Left parties and the Congress of resorting to double standards on farmers’ issues. I went through his entire speech, and had the impression that the Prime Minister is sad and unhappy with political parties out to derive advantage from the ongoing agitation.

In his speech, the Prime Minister repeatedly tried to convince farmers that the new laws have been brought for their own benefit and he was willing to amend any provision which the farmers felt was unacceptable. He said, his government was even now ready to resume talks with farmers and consider their demands afresh. He also said, the government was willing to bend before farmers, but will not listen to political elements which have infiltrated their ranks.

Modi emphatically said that political parties which had lost the elections are now ganging up behind farmers and are trying to thrust their political agenda, and this will not be tolerated. He alleged that Left parties have infiltrated the ranks of farmers using their own flags, and they have taken virtual control of the agitation. Modi said, these Left leaders are not allowing farmers to rejoin talks and they do not want a solution.

In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’, we had shown visuals of how Left supporters were raising posters and placards demanding release of anti-national activists like Sharjeel Imam and Umar Khalid and Maoist activists like Varvara Rao. The memorandum submitted by the Left to the government had demanded release of these leaders, who are presently in custody.

It was in this context that the Prime Minister alleged that the Left, which had made a mess of West Bengal’s economy for more than 30 years and lost the elections to Trinamool Congress, has now reached Punjab to incite the innocent farmers. Almost every day we see Left leaders like Hannan Mollah, Sitaram Yechury and D. Raja among farmer leaders, speaking on farmers’ issues. The fact is that in Left Front ruled Kerala, there is not a single APMC (agricultural produce marketing committee) where farmers can sell their produce. The Prime Minister himself said that the Left parties, which do not speak about farmers’ issues in West Bengal and Kerala, are now inciting Punjab farmers. “These defeated, tired leaders are now doing event management by clicking selfies with the farmers”, he said.

Neither Rahul Gandhi, who was elected as MP from Kerala, nor the Left parties, are demanding APMCs in that state, but in Delhi, they are crying hoarse about APMC mandis and saying that if these are abolished, farmers will become slaves of industrialists. How is it that APMCs are not required in Kerala, but are a must in UP, Punjab and Haryana? Why this double standard? Both the Congress and Left parties are silent on this issue.

There is not an iota of doubt that the Left is behind the current farmers’ agitation on the outskirts of Delhi. Almost every day, we see visuals of Hannan Mollah, Ashok Dhavale (CPI-M leader from Maharashtra), Darshan Singh and Surjit Singh Phull, all Leftist leaders speaking on farmers’ issues. They are leading the agitation. The surprising part is that the both the Left and the Trinamool Congress, which are sworn enemies in West Bengal, have joined hands in Delhi and are part of the anti-Modi camp. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is supporting the agitation of farmers being led by the Left.

On Friday, Modi directly asked Mamata why had she prevented 70 lakh farmers in West Bengal from deriving direct cash benefit under PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana. Under this scheme, the Modi government transfers three tranches of Rs 2,000 each directly into the bank accounts of farmers every year. On Friday, the PM transferred Rs 18,000 crore into the bank accounts of 9 crore farmers across India, but 70 lakh farmers in West Bengal did not get the money, because the TMC government has decided not to implement this scheme. Had she implemented it, Rs 8,500 crore money would have gone to 70 lakh farmers in her state and each farmer would have received Rs 12,000 by now.

The only reason why TMC government rejected this scheme is because Mamata Banerjee does not want Narendra Modi to get the credit. Sitting in Kolkata, while Mamata is extending support to the farmers’ agitation in Delhi being run by the CPI-M, there is a third political party, the Congress, which wants to corner Modi taking advantage of the situation.

On Friday, Modi also lashed out at the Congress and said that their leaders were on record of having demanded abolition of APMCs (mandis) and the role of middlemen, and had supported the entry of multinational and private sector investment in the farm sector. But now, the Congress leaders have changed colour like a chameleon.

Modi sounded aggressive on Friday, and I think, this was the right time to call the spade a spade. He wanted to expose the double standards of the Congress, Left and Trinamool Congress. Several Union minister and BJP spokespersons had already spoken about this, but the Prime Minister raising such issues creates a different impact. The Opposition leaders will still try to pick holes in his speech, they may ask why Modi did not say this earlier, why didn’t he speak to farmers directly at their dharna sites, and some may allege that Modi is trying to browbeat the opposition. I think all such nit-pickings are meaningless.

We must take note of those who are stoking the fire in the guise of agitation. The Leftists want to add their own demands for release of ‘tukde-tukde’ gang leaders and urban Naxalites, Rahul Gandhi carries on with his daily diatribe against Ambani, Adani; and Mamata Banerjee has a big challenge looming in the form of assembly elections. All these are political issues, completely unconnected with farmers’ issues, and it was the right time for Modi to attack the opposition.

Despite the PM’s frontal attack, one should not assume that the opposition would lie low. We should not expect any positive outcome from them. Rather, we should expect the farmers, who are not politically connected, to realize and take a final call about the new farm laws – whether these will be beneficial for them or not. These three laws are indeed for the benefit of farmers, and if there are legal loopholes, the farmers must point them out for amendments.

I spoke to several farmer leaders. Some of them said, whenever Rahul Gandhi speaks on their issues, their agitation gets weakened. They also say that whenever the Left adds issues related to ‘tukde-tukde’ gang and urban Naxalites, their agitation gets defamed. The farmers must realize that the Left and Trinamool, which are sworn enemies in Bengal, and the Left and Congress, which are traditional political rivals in Kerala, have all joined hands in Delhi to derive political advantage from the farmers’ agitation. Their one point agenda is to corner Modi. The moment the farmers realize this, they will arrive at the truth, and a way can be found out. I think, some of the farmer leaders have already started thinking on those lines and Modi’s fresh appeal may become fruitful.

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