At Punjab rally, Rahul slams Centre over farm laws
Moga (Punjab): Congress leader Rahul Gandhi hit out at the Centre on Sunday over the three new agriculture laws, asking why were the farmers agitating if these were meant for them.
Addressing a public meeting in Badhni Kalan in Punjab’s Moga district, Gandhi asserted that the contentious Acts would be revoked if the Congress was voted to power. He wondered what was the “hurry” and need to implement these legislations amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“The prime minister says the laws are being framed for farmers. If the laws are being made for farmers, then why didn’t you debate in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha?” Gandhi asked.
“And if farmers are happy with these laws, then why are they agitating across the country? Why is every farmer of Punjab agitating?”
Farmers have expressed apprehension that the Centre’s farm reforms would pave the way for dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big companies.
President Ram Nath Kovind has given assent to the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill; Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill; and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, which were passed by the Parliament last month.
Earlier, Gandhi arrived in Moga for leading tractor rallies across the state from Sunday till Tuesday in protest against the laws.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, state Congress president Sunil Jakhar, party’s Punjab incharge Harish Rawat and other leaders were present. Former minister and MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu, who had been staying away from all Congress activities, was also seen at the public meeting.
The tractor rallies, which have been named as ‘Kheti Bachao Yatra’, will cover more than 50 km over three days in various districts and constituencies.
Sidhu’s participation in the rally came three days after All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in-charge of Punjab affairs Harish Rawat met him at his residence in Amritsar.
After the meeting, Rawat had said that the cricketer-turned-politician would attend tractor rallies.
Addressing a public gathering here, Sidhu slammed the BJP-led Centre over the farm laws and dubbed them as an “attack on federal structure” and alleged the central government was being run by “capitalists”.
“They are robbing our rights,” he said, adding that the Centre had imposed a “system” which had failed in Europe and the US.
He said these new legislations would adversely affect five lakh labourers and 30,000 ”arthiyas” (commission agents).
Sidhu said that the Punjab government should give minimum support price (MSP) on pulses and oilseeds and set up infrastructure for storage of crops.
Sidhu, who had been at loggerheads with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, had stayed away from all Congress activities ever since he resigned as cabinet minister last year.
However, Sidhu last month had staged a protest against the farm bills in Amritsar but without Congress’ flags. He had described the farm bills as an “attack on the federal structure” and had also said these “black laws” would “ruin” the farming community.
Sidhu, MLA from Amritsar East seat, was stripped off key portfolios in the cabinet reshuffle in June last year.
The chief minister had divested Sidhu of the Local Government and Tourism and Cultural Affairs Departments and allotted him the power and new and renewable energy portfolio.
However, Sidhu had refused to assume the charge and resigned.
The tension between the Punjab chief minister and Sidhu had come out in the open in May last year when Singh had blamed Sidhu for the “inept handling” of the Local Government Department, claiming that it had resulted in “poor performance” of the Congress in urban areas in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
During the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Singh had taken umbrage at Sidhu’s “friendly match” jibe during electioneering in Bathinda on May 17.
Sidhu had allegedly cornered the Congress government in the state over the issue of the desecration of religious texts, questioning why no FIR was lodged against the Badals, who ran the previous government in the state.