Day later, two Congress MPs distance themselves from panel report on farm law

TMC’s O’Brien, Congress' Jairam Ramesh call report misrepresentation.

A day after a Standing Committee report that asked the government to implement the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 in “letter and spirit” was tabled in Parliament, Congress MPs who are part of the panel on Saturday tried to disassociate themselves from it.

While Congress leader Rahul Gandhi called for withdrawal of all three farm laws, and his party colleague Jairam Ramesh called the report a “misrepresentation”, TMC Rajya Sabha member Derek O’Brien called it a “con job”.

BJP MP Ajay Misra Teni, who as acting chairman presided over the committee meeting on March 18, however, said the report was adopted with consensus of all members.

The Act is one of the three contentious laws against which farmers are protesting. Members of TMC, AAP, NCP and Shiv Sena are also part of the panel.

In a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Congress MP Saptagiri Sankar Ulaka (Koraput) said, “I write to you to dissociate myself from the Eleventh Report of the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution on the subject matter—‘Price Rise of Essential Commodities—Causes and Effects’ adopted on 18.03.2021 and tabled in Parliament in both Houses on 19.03.2021.

“Further, the Report recommends to the Government … ‘to implement the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 in letter and spirit…’ I completely dissociate myself with this recommendation, and record my dissent to the Report, in line with the stand expressed by the Congress, in both Houses of Parliament and in various press conferences and public meetings, where we have opposed [the law] tooth and nail…”

Ulaka’s two-page letter, dated March 20, was also sent to the Rajya Sabha Chairman and chairman of the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution.

Ulaka said, “In fact, during the meeting on 16.12.2020, I expressed my opposition against the three farm laws to the Hon’ble Chairperson and the members of the Committee.”

Ulaka said, “The Draft Report on the subject matter was circulated only via e-mail by the related Section of the Committee at 19:00 hrs on 17.03.2021 and adopted between 10:00 hrs and 10:30 hrs on 18.03.2021, under Acting Chairperson Shri Ajay Misra Teni.”

He said the report was tabled in Parliament without recording his dissenting opinion. “I was not present when the report was adopted as the meeting was called in a short notice of merely 15 hours…,” he said.

“Therefore, it is highly irregular that such an important Report was circulated at a very short notice, and without recording any dissenting opinion, was tabled in Parliament,” Ulaka said.

The report, as well as the Lok Sabha website, mentions Ulaka’s name in the list of members who attended the committee meeting on March 18, the day the report was adopted.

Congress Lok Sabha MP from Kasaragod, Rajmohan Unnithan, also wrote to the Lok Sabha Speaker, Rajya Sabha Chairman and chairman of the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution.

Unnithan told The Sunday Express over the phone from Thiruvananthapuram that the committee’s meeting had earlier been postponed twice due to lack of quorum. “This time they held the meeting on March 17, which I could not attend. I have written to the Speaker to dissociate myself from the report.”

BJP member Teni told The Sunday Express, “No member of the committee gave me the dissent note. The report was adopted with consensus of all members.”

Two other Congress members — Ve. Vaithilingam and Rajmani Patel — could not be reached for a comment.

Reiterating his demand for repeal of the three farm laws, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “Krishi virodhi sarkar ko teenon kanoon wapas lene hi honge. 56 chhodo, ham ek inch bhi peeche nahin hatenge! (This anti-farmer government must withdraw all three laws. Forget 56, we will not retreat even an inch).”

Congress’s Ramesh tweeted: “MPs of the Congress party DID NOT ask for implementation of the Essential Commodities Act. The Standing Committee Report is a misrepresentation!”

TMC’s O’Brien tweeted: “This is the BJP cheap ‘n dirty tricks department in action. Con job was done when Chairman of #Parliament Committee was not at meeting. @aitc position on #FarmLaws and Essential Commodities Act well documented. Withdraw draconian laws #FarmersProtest.”

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