NEW DELHI: The Centre had recently passed an ordinance allowing farmers to sell their produce outside the traditional Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC), promoting the idea of ‘One Nation, One Agriculture Market’. But it has created a chasm in the ruling alliance as well as the opposition, with Punjab becoming ground zero for the standoff.
Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which is one of the oldest ally of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have raised doubt over the Centre's decision. Congress’ key partner, incumbent Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Maharashtra, is not on the same page and many within the Congress also feel that not all senior leaders are being vocal against the move.
"We have tested this move in Punjab... Punjab was among the first state to allow farmers to sell their produce outside APMC but it did not help. We stand with the farmers of Punjab and our only concern is that farmers get their minimum support price (MSP) which should include cost of production, profit and compensation for working in their own fields, basically the formula of Swaminathan Commission," said a senior leader of SAD based in Chandigarh.
Senior leaders of SAD believe that they will raise this issue within the National Democratic Alliance at the right time when Parliament is in session.
"What is the main objective here? It is to ensure that farmers get better price. The union government has taken a decision, let it go ahead with it. If it helps the farmers we would be happy, our only concern is to help farmers get better prices," the SAD leader added.
Punjab chief minster Captain Amarinder Singh has actively taken up the cause of opposing the farm ordinances by recently writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against it and holding an all party meeting in the state to seek views of all political stakeholders. Singh has demanded that a review should be made on the grounds of interests of farmers and in the ‘spirit’ of cooperative federalism.
The NCP, which is part of the biggest opposition alliance government in Maharashtra is silent on the issue. The state government has also allowed farmers to sell their produce outside APMC in Maharashtra. Senior leaders of NCP believe that the central leaders of the party would sit together and take a decision on the ordinance of the union government at an appropriate time.
"Right now because of coronavirus pandemic and the difficulties being faced by farmers during lockdown, we had allowed farmers to sell their produce outside APMC. It was done to help the farmers. Now we will have to see what the central leadership of the party decides. We have not had a detailed discussion about it within the party," said a senior leader of NCP who is a cabinet minister in Maharashtra government.
When Singh wrote to Modi just days after the move was announced, there was a view that more chief ministers from Congress and opposition ruled states would follow suit. However, the lack of coordination in not just within alliances as a section of Congress leaders also feel the party had not taken it up in a big way.
“Some of us are of the view that this moment could be as big a game changer as our opposition to the land acquisition ordinance which too came in the second year of first term of Modi government. But, the only strong opposition till now has come from Punjab, and other states or bigger leaders have not been so vocal," a senior leader of Congress party associated with farmer organizations said requesting anonymity.
Part of the reason could also be that there is a lot of pre-occupation with covid-19 pandemic and the Parliament is not meeting right now either,the leader added. "May be when the monsoon session is closer, there could be more clarity and coordination over the issue," the leader said.