Kerala Kaumudi Online
Saturday, 24 October 2020 3.37 PM IST

Farm bills in Rajya Sabha today: Congress and oppositon up in arms against govt


NEW DELHI: One day before the government prepared to defeat the numeric strength of Opposition and estranged allies to pass the contentious farm bills, the BJP's affiliates in the RSS have joined the chorus against the present form of the bills. They want farmers to be given a guarantee of Minimum Support Price (MSP) by everyone procuring and penal action against defaulters, or sending bill to a parliamentary panel and take up the bill in the Parliament's winter session.

Public statements by the top functionalities of the affiliates indicates that the RSS is nudging the government to make amends, realising that no political party can electorally survive the wrath of the huge farming community in the country.

"What's the hurry? Send the bill to a Rajya Sabha Select Committee. We want the elements in the bills to become the law. But the absence of a guarantee that farmers would get MSP by government and private providers would have negative consequences. The other option is to bring the bill with amendments to the Rajya Sabha," said the organising secretary of RSS affiliate Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS).

The second salvo against the government already hit by the resignation of Harsimrat Kaur Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) over the government refusing to incorporate the MSP guarantee came from the BJP's sibling in the RSS, Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM). SJM convenor Ashwani Mahajan told India Today, "We favour the bills but since the law is being changed a guaranteed MSP can be included. We fear that the farmers who don't get MSP even when there is a government administered procurement will be denied prescribed remuneration for their produce by private players once this law kicks in."

The government according to sources has worked out its numbers to push the bills. A senior BJP leader said, "The numbers have been stitched despite the revolt by the SAD and some parties joining the Congress to oppose the bills. But the RSS nudge carries weight."

The indication from the government is that it is going ahead with the bills but if it takes the foot off the pedal by incorporating an MSP guarantee or sends them to a Select Committee, it would not be due to the opposition but because of the caution flag raised by the RSS.

The BJP lacks majority of its own in the Upper House to pass The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020; The Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 that sailed through the Lok Sabha last week.

But in the past, the government has managed to pass more contentious bills with the support of parties which fall in the non-BJP non-Congress allies category.

Already, the government has reached out to various political parties to ensure smooth passage in the Rajya Sabha where the bills are scheduled to be taken up on Sunday. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi said, "The bills will be passed. Talks are on with various political parties, even out of the NDA fold. Ahead of the crucial day, the BJP is leaving no stone unturned. Apart from the Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held a briefing session for MPs who will be present during the debate on the bills.

The government faces on paper a credible numerical challenge from the Congress and others, joined by NDA partner SAD breaking ranks from the BJP.

The Opposition want the bills to be put on hold by sending them to a Select Committee of Rajya Sabha or the department- related Standing Committee.

Till now led by the prime minister, the government has backed the bill that was passed by the Lok Sabha. PM Modi had in fact snubbed Harsimrat Kaur's resignation and Opposition over absence of MSP guarantee by posting on his Twitter that "vested interests are trying to mislead the farmers". The agriculture minister and BJP president JP Nadda rejected the Opposition's demands with ferocity indicating that the government will not accede to mitigate the Opposition to these bills.

Ahead of the test for the bills, the government's search for numbers suffered hits. The Akali Dal is out of the 'yes team'. Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) president and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has asked party MPs of the Upper House to stoutly oppose the three bills and vote against them.

The TRS has seven members in the Rajya Sabha and they are set to vote against the farm bills. K Chandrasekhar Rao charged that the Modi government plans to benefit corporate houses at the cost of farmers by enacting the laws. The party, which has bailed out the government on several occasions in the past, has asked its MPs of the Upper House to stoutly oppose the three bills.

The friend-turned-foe Shiv Sena supported the bill in the Lok Sabha. But after the Akali Dal walkout of the Union cabinet indicated that its confused while attacking the government.

Senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut told India Today, "Akali Dal coming out from NDA means something is wrong inside NDA. Maharashtra is in support of Punjab and Haryana farmers. If a government can't satisfy its learned minister, how can they convince others/farmers. Now this protest will spread in other states too."

However, another Sena leader Arvind Sawant spoke in a different tone. He said, "Our position will be same in Rajya Sabha. Shouldn't look like something good is being attempted and we are opposing. But we request the government to kindly incorporate word MSP, so farmers are protected for life."

Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) too has announced that it would vote against the bill.

The total strength of the house is 243 with two vacancies. The half way mark if all present and voting is 122.

A senior BJP leader part of the numbering crunching team said, "The bills will pass with ease. The government's calculation after ticking each member who can vote for the government is at least 115. Whereas, the Opposition may not cross 100. Rest may abstain or miss the vote for one reason or the other."

The BJP has 86 members. With five members, Nitish Kumar's JDU MPs are firmly with him, along with nominated and independent members, the BJP has a clear support of 105 MPs if one leaves out three members of the Shiv Sena.

On the other hand, ranged against the bill are Congress, AAP, TMC, BSP, SP, Left, DMK, RJD, SAD, TRS and others with 109 members.

As per these numbers, it may seem that the government may fail to push the bills. But the number game depends on the Rajya Sabha for years has been depending on the third block with AIADMK, BJD, YSRCP and AGP.

Shiv Sena has made lot of noises against the bill but may still do what it did in the Lok Sabha - vote in favour. If its three MPs back the bill, the government's numbers climb to 108.

AIADMK and BJD have nine members each. If the two back the government, the bill would have the support of 126.

YSRCP has six members. If the party backs the bill, the government's numbers go up to 132.

Anyone of them abstains the strength of the house goes down, the half way mark shrinks and may help the government.

The session is on under the shadow of the pandemic. The houses are working in shifts. Members of each house to ensure distancing protocols sit in both the houses and the galleries of the houses connected via video screens.

The deciding factors could be the members who are Covid positive or those who due to their senior citizen status like Dr Manmohan Singh have not been attending the house.

According to Rajya Sabha sectt records, nearly 13 members on the government side are either Covid-hit or have not been attending the house. But on the Opposition side, the number of Covid positive and absent due to age factor number is close to 20.

The absence of more members on the side of the Opposition on account of the pandemic compulsions may tilt the balance in favour of the government bills.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet
consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.
We respect your privacy. Your information is safe and will never be shared.