Farm bills: Congress begins its nationwide ‘mass movement’ against government

The Congress will launch from Thursday its nearly two-month-long “mass movement” against the government for passing “anti-farmer and anti-poor” bills during the monsoon session of Parliament.

The party will also collect two crore signatures from protesting farmers against the proposed laws.

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020, have been passed by both the Houses of Parliament during the monsoon session and await Presidential assent.

The Rajya Sabha (RS) witnessed ruckus during the passage of two of the three bills on Sunday following which eight members – Rajeev Satav, Syed Nasir Hussain and Ripun Bora of the Congress, Derek O’Brien and Dola Sen of the Trinamool Congress (TMC), KK Ragesh and Elamaram Kareem of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Sanjay Singh of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) – were suspended for the remainder of the monsoon session.

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The session ended on Wednesday, which was eight days ahead of the October 1 schedule, amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

The decision by the Congress to hit the streets was taken at a meeting of general secretaries and in-charge of states at the party headquarters in Delhi on Monday.

The six-member special committee formed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to help her in organisational and operational matters chaired the meeting in her absence. AK Antony, Ahmed Patel, Ambika Soni, KC Venugopal, Mukul Wasnik and Randeep Singh Surjewala are members of the special committee.

Accompanied by her son and Congress Member of Parliament (MP) Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi had left for the United States on September 12 for a routine health check-up. Both of them returned home on Tuesday morning.

“The nationwide agitation will continue till the government repeals the black laws,” Antony had said after the meeting.

Also Read: ‘Those opposing agriculture bills are enemies of farmers’: Shivraj Singh Chouhan

By announcing nearly two months of protest calendar, the main opposition party is seeking to regain some of the political space it has lost over the years by targeting the 146-million farmers going by their operational land holdings, according to the agriculture census of 2015-16.

The Congress is also seeing the issue as a 2015 moment when Sonia Gandhi had played a key role in bringing 14 opposition parties together against the proposed land acquisition bill that had forced the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government to withdraw the controversial ordinance and shelve the idea of bringing a new legislation to replace the 2013 Act.

“It is going to be a people’s movement, a mass movement against this government,” Patel had said.

Venugoipal, who is the Congress’s general secretary in-charge of organisation, said the party would have a series of programmes across the country in support of farmers.

Apart from a chain of press conferences across the country starting from Thursday, Venugopal said senior leaders from states would walk to respective Raj Bhavans on September 28 and submit a memorandum on the farms bills to Governors to be handed over to President Ram Nath Kovind.

Also Read: Productive but divisive monsoon session ends

On October 2, on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, the Congress will observe Kisan-Mazdoor Bachao Divas (Save Farmers and Farm Labourers Day).

There will be protests and demonstrations in every district across the country demanding immediate withdrawal of the farm bills.

On October 10, state-level conferences will be held and from October 2 to October 31, the party will collect signatures from two crore farmers from across the country.

On November 14, on the occasion of the birth anniversary of India’s first PM Jawaharlal Nehru, a memorandum along with signatures of two crore farmers will be submitted to President Kovind.

“First this government did notebandi, then with GST brought vyaparbandi, then with lockdown did deshbandi and is now planning khetbandi,” Surjewala had said.

Surjewala will address a press conference in Patna on Thursday.

Bihar is slated to go to polls by end-November.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-Congress combine is expected to step up its attacks on the ruling Janata Dal (United)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition by raising the farmers’ issue.

While the JD(U) and the BJP will try to counter that by highlighting the “unruly behaviour” of some of the opposition members as an “insult” to RS deputy chairman Harivansh, who hails from the state, and an attack on Bihar’s pride.

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