Bumper crop of hypocrisy by Congress, AAP and kisan union over farm laws

Abhijit Majumder
·5-min read

If public memory is unwittingly short, memories of those in public life can be wilfully shorter.

The biggest forces on the frontline of the current farmers' protests in Delhi have all been votaries and champions of the same farm laws which they are shredding today, and not too long ago.

Let us take the Congress party, for instance. It is providing the main machinery behind the protests. Punjab, the state it rules and where incidentally the stranglehold of rich agricultural middlemen has been the strongest, seems the most shaken by the Centre's new farm laws.

Congress president-in-waiting Rahul Gandhi has lately been quite vocal, in his muddled pop-philosophical way, against the farm laws.

But on page 17 of its 2019 General Election manifesto, the party had unambiguously promised: "Congress will repeal the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC) Act and make trade in agricultural produce €" including exports and inter-state trade €" free from all restrictions."

Its suspended spokesperson, Sanjay Jha, cheekily pointed it out on social media. "The amendment in Essential Commodities Act is consistent with UPA's own intent earlier and will benefit what Congress's FDI in multi-brand envisaged."

If public memory is unwittingly short, memories of those in public life can be wilfully shorter.

The biggest forces on the frontline of the current farmers' protests in Delhi have all been votaries and champions of the same farm laws which they are shredding today, and not too long ago.

Let us take the Congress party, for instance. It is providing the main machinery behind the protests. Punjab, the state it rules and where incidentally the stranglehold of rich agricultural middlemen has been the strongest, seems the most shaken by the Centre's new farm laws.

Congress president-in-waiting Rahul Gandhi has lately been quite vocal, in his muddled pop-philosophical way, against the farm laws.

But on page 17 of its 2019 General Election manifesto, the party had unambiguously promised: "Congress will repeal the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC) Act and make trade in agricultural produce€"including exports and inter-state trade€"free from all restrictions."

Its suspended spokesperson, Sanjay Jha, cheekily pointed it out on social media. "The amendment in Essential Commodities Act is consistent with UPA's own intent earlier and will benefit what Congress's FDI in multi-brand envisaged."

The economic poster boy of the Congress and Indian liberals, Raghuram Rajan, both as chief economic adviser and RBI governor during the Congress-led UPA regime, had prescribed the same steps that the Narendra Modi government has taken.

"Food prices should be determined by the market and MSPs (minimum support prices) should be used to provide only a lower level of support so that production decisions do not get distorted or the price wage spiral accentuated. This means limiting the pace of MSP increases going forward," he had said in February 2014. "There is a need to reduce the wedge between what the farmer gets and what is paid by the household by reducing the role, number, and monopoly power of middlemen as well as by improving logistics."

In 2012, worried over rising food inflation, the UPA government set up an inter-ministerial group (IMG) headed by Rajan to cool the prices. The panel agreed to take out green vegetables and fruits from APMC to reduce value losses, middlemen and transaction costs.

A farmers' organisation founded by former PM Chaudhary Charan Singh, the Bharatiya Kisan Union, has been a close friend of the Congress lately. It supported the party in the 2019 elections, and then strangely appeared in the anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh to oppose fast-tracked citizenship to persecuted minorities from neighbouring Islamic nations.

Today, it is protesting the new farm laws. In 2019, however, it had taken an exactly opposite stance.

In what it called the Kisan Manifesto, it called for "enabling trade and commerce by abolishing laws such as the APMC and the Essential Commodities Act."

Considering the Modi government has obliged it on both counts, its wrath on the Delhi streets is perplexing, if not laughable.

Lastly, it is Delhi's own master of disguise and deception, Arvind Kejriwal, who has pulled off an extraordinary feat. While vociferously opposing the three contentious farm laws, his AAP government quietly passed one of those laws in the state Assembly, putting it in force in Delhi.

The BJP mocked and ranted, while an exasperated Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh called Kejriwal "this sneaky little fellow". The captain is unmindful of the irony that Kejriwal can throw the epithet right back at the Congress this time.

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