Gujarat Congress leader and Chief Organiser at All India Congress Sevadal, Lalji Desai has decided to mobilise the farmers in Gujarat to protest against the recently enacted farm laws.
सेवादल अध्यक्ष श्री @LaljiDesaiG जी के नेतृत्व मे सेवादल,किसान कांग्रेस व अन्य किसान संघटनो के 150 नेताओ की बैठक हुई।— Congress Sevadal (@CongressSevadal) March 21, 2021
बैठक मे तय हुआ है कि इस होली के दिन तीनो किसान विरोधी काले कानूनों के प्रति जला कर होलिका दहन के साथ दहन कर देंगे व किसानो की लड़ाई पुरे जोर शोर के साथ लड़ेंगे। pic.twitter.com/jywvSIjEb0
The ‘farmers’ from Punjab and Haryana, with explicit and logistic support of Congress and Aam Aadmi Party, have been camping at Delhi borders since past three months protesting against the new farm laws. These farm laws, amongst other things, aim at removing the middlemen and giving the farmers and option to sell their produce to whoever they wish to sell. The central government has time and again reiterated that the minimum support price (MSP) for the produce will continue as is and that the farmers who wish to sell their produce at APMC markets can continue to do so. However, Congress-backed protests, have continued.
Further, there have ben reports that Khalistani separatists have been giving financial support to the farmers’ agitation and had even infiltrated the ‘protests’.
Gujarat farmers not opposing new farm laws
Amid all this, the farmers of other states have not joined the agitation. Gujarat farmers have stayed away from the protests in Delhi. Rakesh Tikait, the ‘farmer leader’ had recently proclaimed that he will ‘free’ the farmers of Gujarat who ‘want to protest’ but are being ‘held back’. His statement had come just days prior to the local body polls in state where Congress faced a humiliating defeat.
Tikait had claimed that Gujarat people are ‘imprisoned’ and are not ‘allowed’ to join the protests. Tikait had tried to influence the rural folks who were to vote in upcoming elections. Of course, the rhetorics did not work and BJP emerged victorious.
In past few months, the Punjab farmer agitation, which was being portrayed as nation-wide movement, has been losing the support. People have been questioning why only predominantly Punjab farmers have issues with laws which are set to benefit farmers and also improve the water level and protect environment. Amid these questions, it became imperative for these ‘farmer’ leaders to make sure that the protests don’t lose steam. After all, in a nation which has been plagued with news about suicides of farmers due to debts, the plight of farmers always strike a chord. The protests against farm laws were a great opportunity for opposition leaders to make Modi come across as the bad man.
However, the farmers from other states, who have already benefited from the agriculture reforms have not joined the protests. Over the years, Gujarat farmers have gained immensely from contract farming, especially of potatoes. In January 2020, ITC officials had said that the farmers in Gujarat earn as high as Rs 5 lakh per hectare. Gujarat farmers embracing contract farming has one of the major success stories from the state.
Congress tries to fight back in Gujarat
After humiliating defeat in recent polls and failing to garner support for the protests against farm laws in Gujarat, Congress leaders in state have activated their network to mobilise the rural folks in Gujarat. Scroll cites Lalji Desai who reveals that the ‘farmers’ have planned a ‘Haiya Holi’ a protest on the eve of Holi next week. Scroll identifies Desai as “a prominent leader of North Gujarat’s Azad Kisan Sangathan and one of the founders of KASAM”. Only later in the article it mentions that Desai is a Congress leader.
Apparently, these ‘farmer leaders’ want to ‘educate’ farmers against the new reforms because Gujarat is a ‘BJP stronghold’. Apparently, Desai wants to ‘end the perception’ that Gujarat farmers are happy with the reforms. Which is why they want a series of agitations in Gujarat.
Scroll also cites on Karan Desai general secretary of the Maldhari Vikas Sangathan, an organisation that claims to be working for cattle owners.Lalji Desai and his wife Neeta Pandya also run an organisation MARAG (Maldhari Rural Action Group). Scroll cites other Congress leaders to claim that Gujarat government is stopping them from joining the protests.
Foreign funded NGOs and ‘farmers’
The role of foreign funded NGOs having tried to escalate the stir at Delhi border is now quite well known. International protestor Greta Thunberg had inadvertently revealed a ‘toolkit’ to defame India on global platform and destabilise India. The ‘toolkit’ had support of pro-Khalistan leaders from Canada, UK and US.
Now, the foreign funded NGOs are trying to create a stir in Gujarat too through Congress leaders.
Lalji Desai, prior to joining Congress in 2014, led an agitation against the Mandal-Bechraji Special Investment Region (SIR) in Gujarat. Back in 2013, Maruti Suzuki was on its way to Becharaji to set up the factory. The land was clear and there was no controversy. Maruti’s entry would pave way for other automobile giants to set up shops and also aide ancillary industries of auto spare parts and others.
However, the usual suspects indulged in fear-mongering that the government was going to ‘acquire’ the land at cheaper rates. Lalji Desai was at the forefront of the agitation.
A 2013 report in online web portal DeshGujarat says that MARAG, run by Desai and his wife Neeta Pandya is funded by foreign organisations. Back in 2009-10, MARAG received over Rs 1.6 crore from Canada and Italy for ‘rural development’. In 2010-11, MARAG received over Rs. 1.12 crore of which about Rs 10 lakh were from Canada. Over Rs 1 crore were received from Child Relief and You and Save The Children. The foreign-based NGOs which work for children had sent lakhs of rupees to Gujarat-based NGO for ‘rural development’.
Desai, himself has donned various hats, latest being a Congress leader. He has been described as ‘activist‘ in 2002, ‘human rights activist’ in 2007 and a ‘maldhari’ activist in few others. As one can see, even Scroll decided to refer to him as a ‘prominent farmer leader’ and not Congress leader. It is amusing how the propaganda portals choose to divorce the two things to suit their agenda.
Lalji Desai, former AAP leader Kanubhai Kalsaria, another pro-Congress NGO chief and serial fake news peddler Shabnam Hashmi have in the past come together for various ’causes’. Some of these NGOs have also been on the watchlist for trying to stall development projects.
Congress and its ecosystem
Congress has turned to its loyal ecosystem to hit back with vengeance, especially after losing the recent local body polls. With prospects of the grand old party looking bleak in the five assemblies which go to polls, Congress seems to have resorted to doing what it excels in, ‘organise agitations’. Now, with the media in Rahul Gandhi’s lap and foreign-based NGOs more than glad to interfere, Congress appears more than happy to create chaos.