20 Sep 2020: Farm bills reach Rajya Sabha; Centre, Opposition scramble for support
The three agriculture-related bills were earlier passed in the Lok Sabha, despite heavy protests by farmers in Punjab and Haryana and the Opposition deeming the proposed laws "anti-farmer."
The Centre and the Opposition now scramble to rally support as the bills are put to vote.
Bills: What are the controversial bills?
The controversial bills are: The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
Farmers fear the legislation would keep them from availing a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their produce. They continue to protest against the bills.
Centre’s stand: Modi blames 'misinformation' campaign for protests
Amid heavy protests among farmers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi blamed a "misinformation" campaign against the proposed laws.
The government has said the bills will help small and marginal farmers by empowering them to sell their produce at competitive prices across India.
Modi's remarks indicate that the Centre will continue to push the bills, despite losing the support of its key ally—the Shiromani Akali Dal.
Fact: Akalis pulled their Union Minister in protest against bill
One of the ruling BJP's oldest allies, the Akalis have protested against the "anti-farmer" bills, even pulling the lone representative from the Union Cabinet, Harsimrat Kaur Badal. The Akalis have three MPs in the Rajya Sabha, who are expected to vote against the bills.
Votes: Ruling party expects 135 votes in favor
The 243-member Rajya Sabha has a majority mark of 122.
Unlike the Lok Sabha, where the BJP has a comfortable majority, the saffron party has 86 seats in the Rajya Sabha. Along with allies, the BJP-led NDA has 105 seats.
Votes: Shiv Sena, NCP to also support farm bills
Notably, 10 MPs have tested positive for COVID-19 while 15 others have said that they will not be able to attend Sunday's session, thereby lowering the majority mark.
This, too, works in favor of the Centre, which is likely to see support from its former ally, the Shiv Sena, as well.
The NCP's four MPs will also reportedly support the bills.
Opposition: Does the Opposition have enough support?
The Opposition includes the Congress party, which has 40 seats, and the Trinamool Congress, which has 13.
The Congress can rely on other regional parties such as the BSP (four seats), the Samajwadi Party (eight seats), and the AAP (three seats).
Reportedly, the Congress party has also approached the YSR Congress, BJD, and TRS for support, but the response has not been encouraging.
Fact: Stand of smaller parties unclear
However, several parties have come out in protest against the proposed laws, suggesting that there are nearly 100 parliamentarians opposing them. Further, there is no clarity about the stand of smaller parties, which have a dozen members combined.