Most Opposition parties have backed Tuesday's Bharat Bandh called by farmers against the three recent farm laws brought by the Narendra Modi government. Is it about the farmers? Have they pushed the Centre on the back foot? Or has the agitation become a show of strength between the government and the Opposition?
On his show News Today at 9, India Today TV Consulting Editor Rajdeep Sardesai spoke to representatives of political parties as well as farm activists to find the answers.
Farm activist Yogendra Yadav admitted that political parties have seen an opportunity but added that they aren't leading the protest. "When we gave the bandh call, we said anyone is welcome to support it. Many parties have. We welcome that. But the real opposition hasn't come from the political system. It has come from the streets," he said.
Another farm activist, Hannan Mollah, said farmers are not holding a brief for politicians. "We have been protesting for the repeal of these farm laws for the last six months all over the country. It's not a Punjab movement. The government and a section of the media are trying to discredit us. Our whole existence is under threat," he said.
Congress spokesperson Gourav Vallabh said it's a movement of every Indian. "Every Congress worker is with the farmers. We want these three black laws repealed. Whose MPs were suspended from Parliament for raising the issue? Who started the protest in Punjab? We want answers to our questions, including the MSP question," he said.
BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia accused all Opposition parties of hypocrisy. "During the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress manifesto talked about the APMC issue. In November this year, the AAP government in Delhi issued a notification to implement the three farm laws. The Akali Dal called the ordinances good in June and left the NDA in September."
Gaurav Bhatia also said that Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav was part of the agriculture committee but he didn't attend even one of its 28 meetings.
"Farmers are the pride of the country. Five rounds of talks have happened. It's a sensitive government. We're optimistic that a solution will be reached. The country has 15 crore farmers. I don't think the entire community is on the roads. But we will address the concerns. When the ordinances were brought, 90 lakh farmers were consulted," he said.
Responding to Gaurav Bhatia's comments, Yogendra Yadav asked if the water cannon, tear gas, and barricades were proof of the government's sensitivity.
"You say 90 lakh farmers were consulted. This must be the largest secret consultation in the world. Why not reveal the names of the participating farmers' organisations? Are the one lakh farmers sitting at Delhi's borders, in this cold, idiots? Or do they have something to say?" he asked, adding that the agitation has spread to several other states, including Karnataka.