The BJP juggernaut rolls on, it managed to goad the House into clearing two controversial farm bills, amid Opposition ruckus and commotion. A third one will come up on Monday.
The bills, which three of BJP’s key allies claim could lead to corporatisation of agriculture, were passed with voice vote even as the opposition was engaged in raising din in the well of the house.
There was much theatrics and the Rajya Sabha had to be adjourned for a few minutes after some opposition MPs snatched papers from the desk of the vice-chairperson, Harivansh Narayan Singh, and damaged his microphone. Perforce, marshals had to be called in to control the situation.
The BJP may feel smug about having had its way but the fault lines in the ruling dispensation was clearly visible with the Akali Dal, the BJD and the TRS making their opposition loud and emphatic. In a clear convergence of interests, all the three parties stringently opposed the bills in their present form and proposed sending the legislations to a select committee. Together the three parties send 19 MPs to the upper house.
To explain the government’s position, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh along with his cabinet colleagues -- Prakash Jaeadekar, Prahlad Joshi, Piyush Goyal, Thawar Chand Gehlot and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi -- held a joint press conference. The agenda of the interaction was to answer questions related to the Centre's farm-related bills and the ruckus in Rajya Sabha earlier in the day. Towards the end of the press conference, Singh responded to the misgivings in some quarters by categorically stating: "I want to give a message to the country's farmers --- MSP and APMC will not cease, no matter what. I am also a farmer."
As the drama unfolded in the House, Punjab and Haryana erupted in protests. Taking not od the eruption, Akali Dal’s Naresh Gujral held out a grim warning when he said that the “sparks lit in the two states can turn into massive flames;” Keshava Rao of the TRS described the bills as an attempt by the BJP to barter away the soul of India. He further described it as a “direct and brutal assault on state rights and constitution.”
BJD’s Amar Patnaik was cited by News 18 as saying that the Bill would result in the corporates ‘‘capturing the agriculture market;’’ he added that “there is a feeling that the MSP is set to go…There is a huge miscommunication in the bill.”
TMC MP Derek O' Brien said that it was a “sad, sad day for Parliamentary democracy” and alleged that despite opposition’s demand for a vote the government pushed through the legislation with a heavy hand since it was outnumbered on the issue.
The parties that came out against the bills included the Congress which has 40 (MPs), SP (8 MPs), Trinamool Congress (13 MPs), DMK (7 MPs), AAP (3 MPs), NCP (4 MPs), RJD (5 MPs) and the CPI and CPM which together send 6 MPs to the house.
Parties that unequivocally supported the bill included BJP (86), YSR Congress (6), AIADMK (9) and BPF (1). Leaders of the Shiv Sena and the the BSP raised some concerns but eventually fell in line.
Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav described the bill as a “death warrant;” Manoj Kumar Jha of the RJD said that the government had penned the obituary of the farmers.
Congress MP Ahmed Patel said that the day will go down in history as "black day". "The ham-handed manner in which these bills have been passed goes against the democratic process," he said, adding that 12 Opposition parties have moved a no-confidence motion against Rajya Sabha deputy chairman.