As the ongoing farmers’ protests continue to roil the national capital region, several opposition politicians have sought to exploit the agitation and cast the Modi government as anti-farmer. One such politician is the former Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who has been eyeing for another relaunch after an embarrassing defeat in the General elections 2019. The Gandhi scion recently posted a tweet in support of the farmers protesting against the three agriculture bills and slammed the government regarding the MSP and APMC.
Rahul Gandhi expressed concern for the farmers of the country, who according to him, are facing severe difficulties in the absence of MSP and APMC. Extending his support for the farmers, the Wayanad MP said that it’s his duty to back the farmers of the country.
“The farmers in Bihar are in grave difficult without MSP-APMC and now the Prime Minister had pushed the entire country into an abyss. In such a situation, it is our duty to support the provider (farmers) of the country,” Gandhi tweeted.
बिहार का किसान MSP-APMC के बिना बेहद मुसीबत में है और अब PM ने पूरे देश को इसी कुएँ में धकेल दिया है।— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) December 5, 2020
ऐसे में देश के अन्नदाता का साथ देना हमारा कर्तव्य है। pic.twitter.com/Err20Pp0kv
While Rahul Gandhi emphatically expressed his support for the farmers and railed against the lack of MSP and APMC, the Congress manifesto from 2019 General Assembly elections reveals a diametrically opposite stand of the party when it went to polls last year.
Congress manifesto for General elections 2019 promised abolition of APMC Act
The Congress Manifesto for the 2019 General elections stated that it would abolish the APMC Act altogether. “Congress will repeal the Agriculture Produce MArket Committees Act(APMC) and make agricultural produce—including exports and inter-state trade—free from all restrictions,” the manifesto read.
Congress promised for the complete abolition of the APMC Act in its manifesto while the Modi government has not repealed the APMC Act in its entirety. The new laws passed by the current dispensation provides the farmers with an additional avenue to sell their produce besides the state-run mandis. The provisions in the bills exempt transactions done outside the physical premises of APMC (agricultural produce market committee) mandis from any “market fee or cess or levy” imposed by state governments.
Congress manifesto also promised replacing the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 with a new act
Secondly, the Congress manifesto for General elections 2019 also promised to replace the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, by an act that can be invoked only in the case of emergencies. “The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 belongs to the age of controls. Congress promises to replace the Act by an enabling law that can be invoked only in the case of emergencies,” Congress manifesto said.
It is worth noting that one of the farm bills passed by the Modi government is The Essential Commodities(Amendment) Act, 2020. With this Act, the Government of India will list certain commodities as essential to regulate their supply and prices only in cases of war, famine, extraordinary price rises, or natural calamities. The commodities that have been deregulated are food items, including cereals, pulses, potato, onion, edible oilseeds, and oils.
The Essential Commodities(Amendment) Bill, 2020, passed by the government is to a large extent what the Congress party promised of bringing in if it was elected to power at the centre in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
However, the Congress party and its foremost leader Rahul Gandhi’s recent stance on the new farm bills passed by the Centre is markedly different from what they had promised in their manifesto 2019 General elections. The Congress party had promised to remove the APMC Act and bring amendments to the Essentials Commodities Act, 1955. The Modi government, on the other hand, has not abolished the APMC Act and has made amendments in the Essentials Commodities Act similar to what Congress has vowed. Yet, the Congress party has been inflaming farmers against the agriculture bills and stoking unrest in the country.
Congress inflaming apprehensions among farmers about the new farm bills
Congress has been actively supporting the farmers’ uprising against the central government. In September, after Congress states brought in laws to negate the farm bills passed by the centre, the Congress invoked Bhagat Singh, whose birth anniversary was being celebrated today, during the protests, and Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh took part in a sit-in at the ancestral village of the freedom fighter.
The protests have been hijacked by Khalistani supporters and leftist activists but still, the Congress has been resolutely backing the agitation. Despite the protesters gloating over the assassination of the former PM Indira Khan and dishing out similar threats to PM Modi, Chief Minister of Punjab Captain Amrinder Singh has been standing in support of the farmers stating that these laws are against their benefits.
If the laws are indeed against the welfare of the farmers, why did the Congress party include them in their manifesto for the 2019 General elections? Either the Congress party was lying then about repealing the APMC Act and amending the Essentials Commodities Act or it is lying now that the three bills brought by the Modi government are against the farmers. Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party should first come clean on what’s their actual stand instead of instigating the farmers against the new farm bills.