Clarify remarks of Goyal, Danve on farmers’ stir, NCP tells PM

Important to find out if unrelated people are part of the agitation, says Athawale

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Sunday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should clarify the claims of some Union ministers that the farmers’ protest against the new agriculture laws has the backing of Pakistan, China, and Maoists.

NCP spokesperson Mahesh Tapase said instead of sympathetically considering the farmers’ demands, Union ministers Raosaheb Danve and Piyush Goyal made “controversial remarks to discredit the agitation”. The Sharad Pawar-led party, along with the Congress, is a constituent in the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.

Mr. Goyal on Saturday said the agitation no longer remains a farmers’ movement as it has been “infiltrated by Leftist and Maoist elements”, demanding the release of those put behind bars for “anti-national activities”. This was clearly to derail agriculture reforms brought by the government, the minister had said. Mr. Danve recently stirred a controversy with his remarks that China and Pakistan were behind the protests being staged by cultivators, inviting sharp reactions from various quarters.

“Mr. Danve said the protest has the backing of Pakistan and China, while Mr. Goyal has alleged that Maoists are supporting the stir. Prime Minister Narendra Modi should clarify if these claims are true,” Mr. Tapase said in a statement. He said cultivators are demanding that the new farm laws be withdrawn, but the government is unrelenting.

Taking a dig at the BJP on Mr. Danve’s remarks, Sena MP Sanjay Raut has asked the Centre to conduct a “surgical strike”. Speaking to reporters in Nashik, Mr. Raut said, “The BJP is saying that Pakistan and China are behind the farmers’ agitation in New Delhi. Defence Minister belongs to the BJP. The BJP should conduct a surgical strike in this regard.”

The Rajya Sabha MP said the agitating farmers hailing from Punjab and Haryana have stood their ground despite the use of force by the Union government. “If the Union government takes two steps backward for the welfare of farmers, it will not lower its value. The government should retreat and hold discussions on the farm laws in the Lok Sabha again and re-introduce these laws as per the expectations of the farmers,” Mr. Raut said.

Alleging that the Central government was using the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to trouble political opponents, Mr. Raut backed Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik, who was recently questioned by the Central agency in connection with an alleged money laundering case in Mumbai.

“Central agencies like the ED and the CBI should not act like BJP activists. I have a list of 120 people from the BJP, which I will hand over to the ED soon,” he said. Responding to a query, Mr. Raut said, “Though the Shiv Sena is not part of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), if a leader from Maharashtra becomes the UPA chairperson, we will welcome it.”

In view of the MVA winning four of the six seats in Legislative Council polls for teachers and graduates constituencies, Mr. Raut said the ruling dispensation will contest the upcoming civic polls together. He said the Sena will install its mayors in Mumbai and Nashik, where civic polls are due.

‘Not Centre’s stand’

Meanwhile, seeking to distance the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from Mr. Danve’s remarks, Union minister and RPI (A) leader Ramdas Athawale told reporters in Nagpur that Mr. Danve’s claim of China and Pakistan being behind the farmers’ protest is “not the government’s stand”. “Besides, Pakistan and China’s hands cannot reach till here,” he said.

Reacting to Mr. Goyal’s statement, Mr. Athawale said it was important to inquire if such people, who have no relation with the farmers’ protest, have joined the protesters. He said the farmers and government should take two steps back and then try to move ahead on the issue.

Farmers have been protesting against the the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020.

Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the government as major reforms in the agriculture sector. However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price and do away with the mandis, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.

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