The Congress leadership has become stunted, it does not understand agriculture and the party is trying to mislead farmers for its own vested interests, said Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar.
In an exclusive interview with ANI, Tomar launched a strong attack on Congress over its opposition to agriculture bills and said the opposition party does not listen to good people within and its leadership is in hands those who are not heard by people.
"Main samajhta hun ki Congress natritav bauna ho gaya hai (I feel Congress leadership has become stunted)," Tomar said.
"Neither do they understand agriculture nor the good or bad of the country. The good people in Congress are not being heard and the leadership of the party is in the hands of those to whom people do not listen, even inside the party. That is why they are trying to mislead the country by saying this and that," Tomar said.
He said Congress leaders were trying to mislead the farmers, because they feel that the work which they could not do for years under the UPA is being done now.
"They could have done it, but they couldn't gather courage," he said.
Tomar said that former prime minister Manmohan Singh and former agriculture minister Sharad Pawar wanted to bring reforms but could not do so under pressure.
"Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar wanted to do it, they wanted to, but under pressure from some people they could not do it," he said.
The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 were passed by Parliament on Sunday. There was protest and ruckus by Opposition members in the Rajya Sabha during the passage of the bills.
A third bill related to agriculture, which amends the Essential Commodities Act, was also passed by Parliament during the monsoon session which concluded on Wednesday. The three bills seek to replace ordinances brought by the government earlier.
Tomar said Congress "is irrelevant now, it is trying to rejuvenate itself but the people have rejected them and they will reject it again on this issue".
The Opposition parties, including the Congress have been demanding that the government should roll back the farm reform bills.
Tomar termed the protest by the Opposition as "purely political" and devoid of any real arguments. He also slammed Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, over his remarks.
"Punjab CM is giving political statements, I want to ask him when he was fighting elections why did he keep it in his manifesto that APMC will be changed, tax will be ended and inter-state sale will be promoted. Congress kept it in its national as well as state manifestos. Any Congress leader, whether national or state level, should first say that they are going back on the promises made in their manifesto, then I am ready to hear their arguments else their arguments are not worthy of being heard, they are misleading and are meant to confuse the farmers," Tomar said.
He urged the Opposition parties to let "justice be finally delivered to farmers". "Please let them be free," he said.
Tomar also said that the controversy being created is purely political in nature and also slammed the behaviour of the Opposition leaders inside the Rajya Sabha.
"All of this is purely political. In the Lok Sabha, discussions were held for four hours and the Bills were passed. In the Rajya Sabha too, 4-4.5 hours discussion were held, every party's leaders expressed their opinions, then the Deputy Chairman asked me to reply. Suddenly in an undemocratic manner, they tried to disrupt the session, they did a cowardly act with the Deputy Chairman and misbehaved with him," Tomar said.
The opposition has argued that the bills would threaten minimum support price (MSP) and, in turn, would leave the same small and marginal farmers in the hands of corporates and large-scale institutional buyers.
The BJP leader said that the Congress and other leaders opposing the Bill had not mentioned its provisions even once during the course of discussions in both the Houses.
"Discussions were held in both the Houses, they did not speak even once on the Bill. The treasury benches welcomed it, but the Opposition said they wanted MSP, APMC should be ended, the farmers are doing such and such things. That is why I too gave a political reply in the Rajya Sabha," he said.
He said there was no need to send the bill to a select committee and the bill would give farmers the freedom they have been devoid of since years.
"Congress kept them devoid of these rights. So if Narendra Modi wants to give them this right today and the transactions can happen without tax, what problems can anyone have, what will the Select Committee do?" he asked.
The Opposition parties have urged the Centre to introduce a fourth Bill in Parliament assuring MSP to farmers for their produce. Opposition members had also resorted to boycott of proceedings of Parliament in the last two days over their opposition to farm bills.
Eight opposition MPs were also suspended by the Rajya Sabha Chairman on Monday over the ruckus and the unruly scenes in the house on Sunday.