Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday lashed out at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for criticising the three farm bills, which were passed during the monsoon session in Parliament earlier this year. Sitharaman questioned the Wayanad Lok Sabha MP the reason behind his lack of support to the same reforms which were promised by his party during the parliamentary elections last year.
“I want to ask Rahul Gandhi (that) were these pro-farmers policies not mentioned in the 2019 election manifesto of Congress? They are protesting just because those reforms are being implemented by PM Modi, and not them,” the finance minister was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
In its plan for reforms in the agricultural sector, Congress’ election manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls had said that if the party forms the government it would “repeal the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC) Act and make trade in agricultural produce — including exports and inter-state trade — free from all restrictions.” The party manifesto had also said it maintains that the “Essential Commodities Act, 1955 belongs to the age of controls. Congress promises to replace the Act by an enabling law that can be invoked only in the case of emergencies.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has previously targeted Congress over its stand on the APMC act. Government sources told PTI earlier this month that Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar was also keen on amending the APMC act.
Despite its promise to repeal the Essential Commodities Act, after it was passed in September, Congress leader and Punjab CM Amarinder Singh had said that his government will challenge the laws in the Supreme Court.
The BJP has said earlier that the previous governments in the Centre did not have the willpower to go ahead with tough reforms. Speaking exclusively to Hindustan Times earlier this month Union minister for agriculture Narendra Singh Tomar had said, “Those who believe in status quo cannot create history. Even the UPA wanted to make these reforms but they couldn’t.”
PM Modi on Saturday once again assured the farmers protesting against the three laws and requested them to resume discussions. “We have not claimed that we have all the knowledge. There should be a debate. That is how democracy works. We are ready to address all issues in an open mind,” he said.
Farmers have been protesting since nearly a month now at the borders of Delhi against the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.