Home >Politics >News >Farm ordinance leads to divisions in ruling alliance and Opposition

NEW DELHI : The recently-passed farm ordinance, which allows farmers to sell their produce outside the wholesale markets run by Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC), has prompted divisions in both the ruling alliance and the Opposition.

Punjab has become the ground zero for the Opposition against the move with both the Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), one of the oldest ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), raising doubts over the decision.

The Opposition too is divided as Congress’ key partner in Maharashtra, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), is not on the same page. Many within the Congress also feel that not all senior leaders are being vocal against the Centre’s decision, which seeks to further the idea of a ‘One Nation, One Agriculture Market’.

“We have tested this move in Punjab. Punjab was among the first states 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.

“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. Senior leaders of SAD plan to raise the issue within the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) when Parliament is in session.

Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has recently written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against the ordinance and has sought 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 farmer interest and in the ‘spirit’ of cooperative federalism.

The silence of the NCP, which is part of the alliance government in Maharashtra, is also interesting as 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 at an appropriate time.

“Right now, because of (the) 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 NCP leader, who is also a cabinet minister of Maharashtra.

When Singh wrote to Modi just days after the ordinance was approved, there was a view that more chief ministers from Congress and opposition-ruled states would follow suit. However, with the lack of coordination in the alliance, a section of Congress leaders feel the party has 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 in the Modi government’s first term. The only strong opposition has come from Punjab, while other states or big leaders have not been so vocal," a senior Congress leader, associated with farmer organizations said requesting anonymity.

“Part of the reason may be that leaders are pre-occupied with covid-19. Maybe when the monsoon session is closer, there could be more clarity and coordination over the issue," the leader added.

gyan.v@livemint.com

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