Opposition unites to demand farm loan waiver, assured MSPs

Poornima Joshi New Delhi | Updated on March 28, 2018

A common minimum programme for the Opposition seemed to be coalescing around farmers’ issues, as various parties came together on Wednesday to demand remunerative minimum support prices (MSPs) and a one-time, immediate loan waiver for “freedom from indebtedness”.

The twin demands have been drafted as Private Members’ Bills by Lok Sabha MP Raju Shetty and Rajya Sabha member KK Ragesh for the ongoing Budget Session. The Bills seek to include as legal rights for farmers a guaranteed remunerative MSP for all crops and an immediate and one-time loan waiver.

The issues were discussed at length in the meeting attended by Sharad Pawar (NCP), Mallikarjun Kharge and Mohan Prakash (Congress), Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), Dinesh Trivedi (TMC), Kanimozhi (DMK), Sharad Yadav (rebel JD-U), Farooq Abdullah (NC).

The parties, from Kashmir to Tamil Nadu, clearly sensed the emotive import of the farmers’ demands and were keen on pushing them as the primary theme of their political programme. While Farooq Abdullah was in favour of more radical street action — “surround Parliament, attack those who block the farmers’ demands”, both the Congress and the NCP advised a more studied strategic approach.

‘Don’t let Bill perish’

Both Pawar and Kharge urged the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), the congregation of 193 farmers’ organisations responsible for the recent mammoth marches in Maharashtra, to prevent the demands from perishing as private members’ bills in the Lok Sabha.

“The government is managing one party to disrupt the House and even no-confidence motion is not being moved. In such circumstances, we need to figure out ways to not let these Bills perish. I would suggest that all of us discuss them further; we have a couple of suggestions. Rahulji (Congress President) has sent some of his suggestions. Let us push them more effectively,” said Kharge.

Rahul supportive: Shetty

The Congress clearly views this as an important enough issue to send two representatives, AICC General Secretary Mohan Prakash and Kharge, for the round-table.

Raju Shetty, the head of Swabhimani Paksha who joined the NDA in 2014 and quit last year citing the BJP’s “neglect of farmers”, told BusinessLine that he had met Rahul while mobilising support for the farmers’ demands. “Rahul was attentive. He wanted to spend more time discussing different aspects of farmers’ demands,” said Shetty.

Get Bills passed in RS

Taking off from where Kharge left, Sharad Pawar suggested strategies to push the draft legislations in Parliament.

“I suggest we have committees of MPs for both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. But more significantly, I think, the Bills should be pushed in the Rajya Sabha. We (the Opposition) still have a majority in the Upper House. And once the Bills have the backing of the Rajya Sabha, it acquires a certain gravitas for us to push it in the Lok Sabha,” said Pawar.

Clearly, politics in the coming months will revolve around rural distress and farmers.

Published on March 28, 2018

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