PM accuses oppn of misusing farmers' protest to push their agenda; Rajnath tells farmers try new farm laws for a year or two as experiment

·7-min read

New Delhi, Dec 25 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday accused the opposition of misusing the protests by farmers against the new agri laws to push their political agenda, and asserted his government is willing to hold talks with all, including its staunch critics, as long as they are based on farm issues, facts and logic.

As Modi squarely blamed political rivals for misleading farmers and also for the stalemate in the Centre-farmer unions talks, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh appealed to farmers to try the three new laws as an 'experiment' for a year or two and if they are found not beneficial to them, the government will do all necessary amendments. Five rounds of talks on the farm laws have remained deadlocked with the unions unrelenting on their demand for repeal of the farm laws enacted in September.

The prime minster was speaking after releasing Rs 18,000 crore funds to 9 crore farmers under the PM-KISAN scheme.

With the push of a button, Modi enabled the transfer of money at an event which the ruling BJP has made into a mega exercise to reach out to farmers by having its leaders including a battery of union ministers interact with the farming community at more than 19,000 venues across the country and also listen to the prime minister's address.

This was followed by an interaction with farmers from seven states--Arunachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Haryana--during which he allayed fears that private firms might grab farmers' land under a new contract farming law enacted by the Centre. He listed the benefits of the farm laws and also listened to success stories about their advantages.

As protests by the farmers at the border points in Delhi entered the 28th day, Modi said when the agitation began farmers had some genuine demands like guaranteed minimum support price(MSP) but people with political motives then took over and began making unrelated demands like the release of those accused of violence and making highways toll-free.

Though the government is making humble efforts to resume the dialogue, some are not letting talks happen due to political reasons and are misleading the farmers, he said.

'You would have seen that when the agitation started their demand was about MSP guarantee. They had genuine issues because they were farmers. But then those with political ideology took over.' 'MSP, etcetera were pushed aside and now what is happening is that they are demanding release from jail of those accused of violence... They want highways toll-free, opposing policies that have existed through several governments. Why have they shifted from farmer's issues to new demands,' he added.

Modi said his government is approaching talks with protesting farmers with an open heart, and claimed that the parties rejected by the electorate are pushing their political agenda by misleading farmers and using their shoulders to fire at the government as they lack any logical argument against these laws.

Defeated in elections, these parties are now indulging in event management for selfies and are appearing on television for publicity, he said.

In their reaction to Modi's address, the protesting farm unions alleged it appeared to be an attempt to 'divide and mislead' the farmers and insisted they want a legal guarantee on MSP.

On the prime minister's allegations that political rivals were misusing the protest to push their agenda, farmer leader Abhimanyu Kohar said unions do not allow any political party to use their stage and accused the government of diverting the issue.

The union leaders, meanwhile, met to discuss the government's latest letter for talks, with some of them indicating they may decide to resume their dialogue with the Centre to find out a solution to the impasse.

The leaders said that they will hold another meeting on Saturday where a formal decision on the Centre's fresh invite on Thursday for resumption of the stalled talks is likely to be taken.

In a major outreach to farmers, Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Prakash Javadekar and Smriti Irani were among the union ministers who held separate interactions with farmers. They stressed that the government is committed to the welfare of the farmers and that the three laws were in their interest and do not cause any harm to them.

'For once let this act (acts) be implemented, for a year or two... Try this experiment and if you feel that this act (acts) is not in the interest of farmers, then I can tell you this with conviction as I know the intention of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi we will do all necessary amendments in it,' Rajnath told a rally at Dwarka in the national capital, Shah blamed the opposition, including the Congress, for spreading lies about the MSP and other provisions of the farm laws.

'Opposition is telling brazen lies. I again reiterate that the MSP will continue and the mandis will not be closed. Farmers' welfare is the top-most priority of the Modi government,' Shah said.

'Neither MSP will end, nor anyone can snatch your land. I want to tell farmers that as long as Narendra Modi is the prime minister, no corporate can snatch away your land, this is BJP's promise to you.' In Amethi, Irani launched a scathing attack on Rahul Gandhi, accusing him of 'lying and misleading' farmers over the farm laws.

'He is shedding crocodile tears for farmers and misleading them. His own jija (brother-in-law) has encroached upon the land of farmers,' she alleged, in an apparent reference to charges levelled against Congress president Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra by political rivals. Vadra has been accused of irregularities in owning large tracts of land, a charge he has often dismissed as a vendetta.

BJP president J P Nadda requested farmers not to fall for the lies being spread by the parties which did nothing for them when in power, and said they should support Prime Minister Modi.

Putting up a strong defence of the three farm laws, Modi said farmers in overwhelming numbers across the country have welcomed the three Acts.

'Our decision can be tested on logic and facts. If there is any shortcomings, it should be highlighted. It is a democracy. We are not claiming that God has given us all knowledge,' he added.

He also launched a strong attack on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, saying her government has destroyed the state and denied its over 70 lakh farmers money transfer from the central government due to political reasons.

Hitting back, Banerjee accused the prime minister of trying to mislead the people with half-truth and distorted facts over non-implementation of the money transfer scheme.

In a statement, the Trinamool Congress chief said the prime minister showed his apparent concern for the farmers through a televised address, instead of proactively working to resolve their issues.

Some of Modi's barbs in his address were also aimed at Left-affiliated outfits.

Those ruling Kerala for years are joining Punjab farmers for selfies and publicity but they did nothing for the mandi system in their own state, he said, claiming that many leaders have used the protests to further their own ideology.

Targeting his rivals, Modi said some of them have been feigning concerns about farmers' land even though everyone knows whose names came up in media for land grabbing. His remarks appeared to be aimed at Robert Vadra.

The Congress said the Centre does not want to solve farmers’ problem and was trying to “wear them down”.

“The entire country listened to Prime Minister Modi's clarification on TV today. They say bigger the crime bigger the clarification and the prime minister is just doing that,” senior Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said, claiming that the PM and his ministers are only giving “clarifications” without looking into the plight of farmers. He was talking to reporters in Chandigarh. PTI KR LUX MJH NKD JTR VIT SUN VSD AMR BUN BJ GSN GSN GSN