BJP, Centre in 'Catch-22' as farmers' protest continues

Farm Laws: BJP, Centre in 'Catch-22' as farmer protests set to enter 23rd day

The Centre issued a 100-page e-booklet to buttress how farm laws benefit farmers and reeled out success stories due to these farm reforms

A youngster holds the tricolor at Ghazipur border during their protest against Centre's agri-laws, in New Delhi, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. Credit: PTI Photo

Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar wrote an open letter to farmers reassuring the MSP and listing pro farmer steps taken by the Modi government in the last six years.

With the Supreme Court now taking note of the farmer agitation and the Centre's strategy of "no repeal and fresh appeal" strategy not working, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar wrote a letter to farmers giving a fresh assurance about the continuance of minimum support price (MSP) after Home Minister Amit Shah huddled with senior ministers and BJP general secretaries to find a way out of the stalemate.

Read: Supreme Court 'sympathetic' to cause but wants farmers to hold talks

The Supreme Court on Thursday acknowledged the right of farmers to non-violent protests and suggested that the Centre put on hold the implementation of the three contentious laws.

However, sections in the government believe that efforts should be made not to withdraw the laws and allay the fears of farmers by keeping open the doors of dialogue.

Tomar, in his letter, addressed to "farmer brothers and sisters", insisted that the farm laws will lay the foundation of a new chapter in Indian agriculture, he also had a separate meeting with farmer producer Organisations (FPOs) and tweeted about their "support to farm reform laws".

The government-issued e-book - 'Putting Farmers First' - highlighting the success stories of farmers who benefited from contract farming after enactment of these legislations, to buttress the point that farm laws are not against the interests of farmers who are protesting on Delhi border for the last 22 days.

The booklet sought to project the new laws as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the agriculture minister has attempted a "polite dialogue" with the farmers. "My request to all Annadatas is that they must read it," he said.

Follow farmers' protest live updates here

After Shah's meeting, which went for over an hour, at the BJP head office on Thursday was attended by Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman, Piyush Goyal, Narendra Singh Tomar and party's general secretaries C T Ravi, Dushyant Gautam and Arun Singh among others, Tomar issued a letter.

BJP has got into a real mess over the farm protest issue, with its own allies deserting it or asking it to act on the demand of farmers. There is a realisation in the government and the party that the agitation cannot be allowed to linger on for long and pressure is mounting on them to end the standoff.

BJP's plans to explain the government's side of story

Having burnt its fingers twice on farm issues in past--in 2015 over land bill ordinance and over Mandsaur police firing in 2017, BJP is not taking the farmers protest this time lying down and has organised outreach programmes through press conferences and chaupals (small open public meetings) at district levels.

This is an attempt to communicate to people and farmers the government's side of the story on the new farm laws and to allay apprehensions. The party will be holding 700 press conferences and 700 small public meetings.

While the Supreme Court on Thursday acknowledged the right of farmers to non-violent protests and suggested that the Centre put on hold the implementation of the three contentious agri laws, there is a view in the government that efforts should still be made not to withdraw the laws and allay the apprehensions of farmers by keeping open the doors of dialogue.  

NCP on Thursday joined other Opposition parties in demanding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi convene a special session of Parliament to address the concerns of the agitating peasants.