New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi came out in strong defence of the three controversial agricultural reform laws brought in by his government and urged the protesting farmers to end their agitation. Replying to the debate on the motion of thanks on the President’s address in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, Mr Modi said: “End your protests and we will all sit together and talk. We are ready for talks and I am inviting you again for a dialogue from this House.” The PM added that agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar was in talks with the farmers’ union leaders.
Taking on the Opposition, the PM said the Congress had taken a U-turn on the farm laws, reading out the words of former PM Manmohan Singh. He added: “Those who are not listening to what we are saying will hopefully listen to Manmohan Ji’s words. You should, in fact, be proud of the fact that Modi has to do what Manmohan Singh said long ago.”
Mr Modi assured farmers that “MSP tha, MSP hai … aur MSP rahega” (the minimum support price will remain). “No one should spread misinformation,” he added. The PM hinted that there was a “conspiracy” behind the protests and said FDI could be termed “Foreign Destructive Ideology”, and that the country should be aware of this.
With the protests against the farm laws having gone international, with tweets by pop icon Rihanna and Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg supporting the agitating farmers, Mr Modi said: “In the last few years, we have witnessed a new category of protesters ‘Andolan jeevi’, who one can see in every agitation. We need to protect this country from these ‘Andolan Jeevi’, who are actually ‘parjeevi’. They don’t have their own strength, but they join all agitations.”
Talking about the Opposition’s protests against the farm laws, the PM said: “A lot was discussed in the House but mostly it was on the protest, not on the solution… you can oppose the procedure but could have explained to farmers that it is high time for these farm reforms… but now they are saying they were not consulted before, like ‘fufaji’ uncle who gets angry for not being invited to a wedding… this happens in large families.”
Mr Modi added that the earlier framework did not work favourably for the farmers and alleged the Opposition parties had kept silent on the core issues of farmers. Mr Modi said the number of marginal farmers with small landholdings had increased from 51 per cent in 1971 to 86 per cent at present.
Taking a did at the internal strife within the Congress, Mr Modi said that while he was happy that Ghulam Nabi Azad had praised his government (on the holding of elections in Kashmir), he cautioned the Congress not to do the opposite just because Mr Azad had said so. He said: “I hope your party takes it in the right spirit. They shouldn’t make the mistake of doing just the opposite considering it as the view of the G-23.”
The Congress, meanwhile, hit back at the PM’s assertions. Rajya Sabha MP Mallikarjun Kharge said: “In the wake of the farmers’ agitation, we expected the Prime Minister would take back the laws and bring them back to Parliament after consulting with all stakeholders. But he didn’t mention that. He only said people are agitating without understanding the laws. Is it possible?” He added: “He (PM) is misleading everyone by saying that people don’t know what is in the laws. Are we all fools?”