BJP dares Rahul for debate, says Congress always ignored farmers' interests

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New Delhi, Dec 24 (PTI) The BJP on Thursday challenged Rahul Gandhi for an open debate on what the Congress did for farmers' welfare when in power and what the Modi government has done for them, as it rejected his allegations against the Centre as 'baseless and illogical'.

Union minister Prakash Javadekar accused the Congress of ignoring farmers' interests and keeping them poor to ensure cheap grain prices, and asserted that the Modi government empowered them by implementing the Swaminathan commission report to give them remunerative price through MSP.

The BJP leader noted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will transfer Rs 18,000 crore to nine crore farmers on Friday, taking to a total of Rs 1.20 lakh crore the amount of money it has directly credited to their bank accounts so far.

'This is merely the beginning. It will continue for 10 years and the total scheme is of Rs seven lakh crore,' he said, noting that the all the Congress did when it was in power was to waive their loans amounting to Rs 53,000 crore.

This money was not given to farmers but to banks against their loans, he noted.

'I challenge the Congress and Rahul Gandhi for an open debate. I will prove how the Congress always ignored farmers' interests and how Modi empowered them. Farmers always demanded remunerative price for their produce but the Congress never did so,' he added.

The opposition party has been 'unmasked' as it has become clear and it and its allies have been using farmers' shoulders to fire at the government and have been 'instigating' them, he alleged.

Gandhi had alleged earlier in the day that there is 'no democracy in India' and it exists 'only in imagination'. A Congress delegation met President Ram Nath Kovind and demanded a joint session of Parliament to repeal the Centre's three agri laws.

'The farmers (camping at Delhi borders) would not return till these laws are repealed. The government should convene a joint session of Parliament and repeal these laws,' he told reporters after meeting the president.

Javadekar made light of Gandhi's demand for a session, saying when Parliament is in session, Congress members obstruct and do not take part in a debate.

He said the government's doors are always open for dialogue with agitating farmers, and it is confident that a solution will emerge.

Taking a swipe at the Congress leader, Union Agriculture & Farmers' Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said that leave aside the entire country, even the Congress does not take seriously whatever Gandhi says.

If Gandhi was so concerned about farmers, his party when in power could have done something for them, Tomar said.

The Congress has always been against farmers, he alleged.

In its 2019 election manifesto, Gandhi had said if the Congress came to power, the government would end agricultural produce market committee (APMC), ensure trade without mandi tax, and promote contract farming, he said.

'Now I want to ask Rahul Gandhi, if he lied in 2019 or is lying now. On this, the Congress has to come clear,' Tomar said.

At a briefing at the BJP headquarters, party spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi took a swipe at Gandhi by calling him 'perpetually young, disenchanted, frustrated and agitated' and said his 'baseless and illogical' broadside against the government was in line with his nature.

In a counterattack on the Congress leader over his charge that the government invariably dubs its critics as 'anti-national', Trivedi said the opposition party had levelled a case of 'treason' against former prime minister Charan Singh, a noted leader of farmers, and jailed him as well. BJP stalwart and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had also been levelled with a similar charge by the party, he said.

He asked why Gandhi is not agitating for farmers in Kerala as the state from where he is an MP does not have the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee Act.

'This cannot be accepted what is good in Kerala is bad in Delhi,' he said, noting that food processing giants such as Nestle and Pepsico have been present in Punjab for many years.

Farmers in other states should also benefit from similar private interventions in the farm market, he said.

Union Minister of State Rattan Lal Kataria said the three farm laws are aimed at improving the overall economic condition of farmers.

He said that the government is open to any discussion on the farm laws and shall address all concerns of farmers.

'The government has been and shall always be concerned about the farmers' welfare and the three Acts are also aimed at the same. These laws will provide new rights and opportunities to farmers and further empower them in the long run,' Kataria said in a statement.

Kataria criticised the opposition parties whom he accused of 'trying to play politics over this matter' and termed them as 'opportunists'.

Allaying fears among the farmers and strongly rejecting the 'false propaganda' being spread on the discontinuation of MSP, the minister said the government has continuously increased the minimum support price for procurement of crops. PTI KR LUX PR SMN SMN