A law to guarantee Minimum Support Price (MSP) for farm produce is a must, farmers gathered at a ‘mahapanchayat’ in Lucknow said today, days after their year-long protest forced the government to announce that three contentious farm laws will be rolled back.
While a decision on the future of the protest will be taken by top farmer leaders later this week, those who attended the rally at the capital of poll-bound Uttar Pradesh were unanimous in asserting the need for a law on MSP.
“MSP guarantee is a very important demand and it needs to be accepted. MSP and prices lower than it affect all, whether it is a poor farmer or a rich one,” Rakesh Tikait, one of the most visible faces of the farmers’ movement, told NDTV.
A farmer who said he had come from Shahjahanpur in central UP added, “We take our produce to the mandis, officials misbehave against us and do not buy it on MSP. If there is a law, then we will drag these officials to court and say, ‘the law guarantees MSP, please give it to us'”.
Farmer leaders also told NDTV that they were not satisfied with the government’s steps in the Lakhimpur Kheri case in which the son of Union Minister Of State, Home, Ajay Mishra is under arrest for his alleged role in the murder of 4 farmers. Farmer leaders have demanded that the minister be sacked, arguing that a fair investigation is not possible otherwise.
As farmers’ held their meeting in Lucknow, top BJP leaders were 300 km away, in Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s home turf Gorakhpur where BJP national president J P Nadda addressed booth-level party workers.
Months before the crucial polls in Uttar Pradesh, the Prime Minister’s announcement of the decision to roll back the three laws is seen as an attempt to pacify farmers in western UP, but the BJP also faces the challenge of explaining the backtracking to voters.
“There is so much talk of the kisan andolan, so many leaders are being spoken of, but one must not forget that the work Prime Minister Modi has done for farmers, no farmer leader has done. We need to remind the people about all this again and I am sure you will,” Mr Nadda told BJP workers today.
Other top state BJP leaders such as Unnao MP Sakshi Maharaj made jibes at farmer leaders. “Bills get passed, they get revoked and they can very much be brought back. It is not a big thing. The Prime Minister has shown a big heart,” the MP said in a video statement shared with journalists.
Farmers and activists in Lucknow said they have planned a march to parliament early next week . “Till they withdraw the laws in parliament, all this means nothing. This is all an election stunt because in UP, the BJP faces a threat of loss in next year’s elections,” Vandana Roy, an activist with All India Democratic Women’s Association, told NDTV.