Good sense seems to have prevailed on both sides when on Wednesday the ruling party and the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha agreed to debate the on-going farmers’ protest as part of the extended debate on the President’s address to a joint session of Parliament. Allocating five more hours in addition to the ten already earmarked for the debate on the President’s address for such a debate in an orderly manner was immensely welcome. At least, it broke the ugly cycle of protests, adjournments and walk-outs by the Opposition.
It was, therefore, fitting that the lone theme that Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Congress leader of the Opposition, who initiated the debate, sought to hammer home was the repeal of the impugned farm reform legislations. He asked the Government not to stand on prestige, asserting his party’s opposition to the agri reforms. He likened the farmers’ protest to several struggles their predecessors had waged against the British colonial power, and that the farmers would not go back without their demand for repeal of the laws being met.
Members from the ruling party countered how the farm reforms had already started paying dividends to crores of farmers, how every party now opposing them had been a vociferous supporter of the very same reforms, and that the government was negotiating with the protesters with an open mind. The BJP members asked the Opposition to desist from inciting farmers, suspecting an extraneous agenda behind the protest. A ruling party member warned against fomenting violence in the guise of the farmers’ protest, referring to the anti-CAA protest at Shaheen Bagh early last year. Having been defeated by the people in the election, the Opposition was conspiring to destabilise the popularly-elected government through other means.
Predictably, neither side had anything new to add, but the fact that the Rajya Sabha witnessed a civilised debate came as a refreshing change, especially given that the Lok Sabha on the same day witnessed acrimonious scenes on scheduling of the debate on the farmers’ protest. Hopefully, the Lok Sabha too will settle the dispute amicably and debate the farmers’ stir.