With an eye on the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, both the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Congress are tying to woo farmers, who started their ‘Delhi Chalo’ protest on Tuesday, demanding a law guaranteeing minimum support price (MSP), one of the conditions they had set when they agreed to withdraw their agitation against the now-repealed farm laws in 2021.
ALSO READ | Farmers Protest LIVE Updates HERE
At a rally in Chhattisgarh, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi said their party would provide legal guarantee to MSP for crops as per the Swaminathan report after coming to power, while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) governments in Punjab and Delhi were seen to be standing firmly with the farmers, as they clashed with police along the Shambhu-Ambala border on the common boundaries of Haryana and Punjab.
The Swaminathan report recommends raising the MSP to at least 50% above the weighted cost of production.
With Punjab under its belt, the AAP is treading carefully, not wanting to send a wrong signal to the majority of its constituency of voters there. The AAP has already announced that it will contest all 13 seats in the state and hopes to score big, which is only possible with the support of farmers.
The Congress is also in competition with the AAP in Punjab, which is why both are vying for the same farmers’ votes.
In Punjab, chief minister Bhagwant Mann, acting as a mediator, tried to resolve the brewing standoff by organising a meeting between the ministers of the central government and farmers’ unions in which he also participated during the first round of discussions. Mann also allowed a free passage to the farmers as they moved towards Delhi. Just a couple of days before the protest, Mann also hit out against his Haryana counterpart, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, accusing him of “creating a border between Punjab and India”. “I urge the Centre to hold talks with farmers and accept their genuine demands. They (Haryana) have created a border. There are as many barbed wires in the borders of Punjab and Haryana as between India and Pakistan.”
The Punjab CM, however, was not present when talks between the union ministers and farmers’ unions happened on Monday.
किसानों के हक नहीं कुचलने देंगे मुख्यमंत्री अरविंद केजरीवाल जी ने मोदी सरकार के दिल्ली के स्टेडियम को जेल में बदलने का प्रस्ताव ठुकराया
आखिरी दम तक AAP किसानों के साथ खड़ी है pic.twitter.com/BDrOPAxFXT
— AAP (@AamAadmiParty) February 13, 2024
In Delhi, the AAP government turned down a proposal from the Delhi police to turn Bawana stadium into a temporary jail in view of the protests. AAP minister Kailash Gahlot, while rejecting the proposal of the Centre, wrote, “The demands of the farmers are genuine. Secondly, it is the Constitutional right of every citizen to protest peacefully. The Central government should, in fact, invite them over for talks and try to find a solution to their problems.”
The minister added that the farmers in the country are its “annadata” and treating them this way by arresting them would be like “rubbing salt into their wounds”. “We cannot be party to this decision of the Central government. Hence, approval cannot be given for converting a stadium into a jail.”
The minister’s response in fact is a redux of the AAP government’s response in 2020-21, when it had similarly turned down the Central government’s proposal to turn the Bawana stadium into a temporary jail. In fact, AAP boss Arvind Kejriwal had made political capital of the same, alleging that his stand during the farmers’ protest had earned him the wrath of the Central government.
During the first round of farmers’ protest, the AAP MLAs had reached out to the protesting farmers in the Singhu border and were visible in their support. However, the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha had not allowed the leader of any political party, including the AAP, to take centerstage in its very determined and pitched protests.
हमारी MSP पर कानूनी गारंटी किसानों के जीवन में 3 बड़े बदलाव लाएगी। – फसल के सही दाम मिलने से किसान कर्ज़ की मुसीबत से छुटकारा पा जाएगा।
– कोई भी किसान आत्महत्या को मजबूर नहीं होगा।
– खेती मुनाफे का व्यवसाय होगा और किसान समृद्ध बनेगा।
और समृद्ध किसान देश की तक़दीर बदल देगा।… pic.twitter.com/cKBa1pWKiL
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) February 13, 2024
FARMERS: CONGRESS’S LUCKY MASCOT
The Congress had come back to power in 2019 with a huge majority on the basis of farm loan waivers. The party believes that farmers can be their lucky mascot once again, hence the total support to the protesting farmers.
At a press conference, Randeep Surjewala, who comes from Haryana and is an MP in Rajya Sabha, said that “this was barbaric and the government was a tyrant to attack farmers”.