A massive farmers’ rally in the national capital on Friday turned into a show of opposition unity with leaders including Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal accusing the Modi government of plunging the country into an acute agrarian crisis and backed demands for a complete loan waiver and higher crop prices.
Led by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), which represents over 200 farm outfits, thousands of farmers marched from the historic Ramlila Maidan to Parliament Street demanding a special session of Parliament pass Bills to cancel farm loans and to ensure guaranteed remunerative prices for farm commodities based on the recommendations of the M S Swaminathan Commission.
Two private member Bills in this regard were introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2017 by Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana leader and MP Raju Shetti, who warned on Friday that the Modi government would face defeat in the 2019 elections unless it accepted farmers’ demands.
A host of opposition leaders including Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah, CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury,
Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Kejriwal, Trinamool Congress’ Dinesh Trivedi, Loktantrik Janata Dal’s Sharad Yadav and TDP leader K Raveendra Kumar tore into the Modi government over its “anti-farmer policies”.
Also present were former JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar and Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani.
Pledging the opposition’s solidarity with the farmers, Gandhi declared that “farm loans will have to be waived even if it required changing the Prime Minister.” “We all are with you. Be it changing laws or changing the Prime Minister, we will do everything that is required to ensure your loans are waived. If any government insults the farmers, then it has to be uprooted and that is going to happen,” said Gandhi.
Accusing Modi of speaking only for his “industrialist cronies”, Gandhi said farmers were not demanding any free gift but seeking what was their right. “When 3.5 lakh crore of loans of the biggest industrialists can be written off by the Modi government, then the loans of millions of farmers will also have to be waived,” he thundered.
Speaking in a similar vein, Kejriwal charged the Modi government with “backstabbing” farmers by telling the Supreme Court that it cannot implement recommendations of the M S Swaminathan Commission which the BJP promised to do so in 2014. “They (farmers) are not begging but fighting for their rights,” said Kejriwal and blasted the government’s crop insurance scheme. “This is not an insurance scheme but it is BJP’s ‘kisan daka yojna’ (plunder farmers scheme). The Modi government is worried more about Ambanis and Adanis,” he alleged.
Kejriwal expressed happiness over major opposition parties coming out in support of the farmers. Nationalist Congress Party chief Pawar, endorsing the passage of the twin Bills, called for a holistic approach to improve the pitiable condition of the farming community. “The (Modi) government has remained insensitive to the farmers’ plight… We will no more remain silent. We will try our best to pass these Bills,” asserted Pawar.
Amid chants of anti-Modi slogans, opposition leaders attacked the Prime Minister over “crony” capitalism and neglect of farmers’ plight.
Sharad Yadav held the Modi government responsible for “over three lakh farmer suicides” in the country in the last four and a half years. He called upon the people to dethrone the “anti-farmer government” led by Modi.
Flaying the BJP government for the acute agrarian crisis in the country, Yechury likened Modi to a “pocketmaar” (pickpocket) and accused him of “looting the poor”. “Our party supports the two Bills and we will pressurise the government for their passage. But everybody knows what are the intentions of the government,” he said.
Men and women marched under various banners with flags and placards in the massive show of strength by the AIKSCC, its fourth mega rally in the national capital following the ‘Mandsaur firing’ in Madhya Pradesh in which five farmers were killed in June 2017.
Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav said the congregation was not here to just protest but had emerged as an alternative to existing policies.
Many farmers vowed to vote against the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. “Modi is not my enemy. But he has not fulfilled the promises he made to farmers,” said Rajendra Prasad, a farmer from Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh.