BJD’s opposition to farm bills triggers sharp reactions in Odisha
Bhunameswar: Opposition to the farm bills by Biju Janata Dal, which has backed Narendra Modi Government on many issues in the past, has triggered sharp reactions in Odisha political circles with BJP leaders claiming that the regional party fears the measures will end its control over regulated market committees. The ruling BJD leaders, however, maintained that their opposition was not guided by any political considerations and the party wanted the bills to be put to more scrutiny to do away with certain inadequacies for effective protection of small and marginal farmers as well as sharecroppers.
Out of a total of 10 Rajya Sabha seats in Odisha, BJD has nine members while the BJP has one member. Hitting out at the BJD for opposing the farm bills, which were passed in Rajya Sabha on Sunday, senior BJP leader and Lok Sabha member Suresh Pujari said the measures aimed at abolishing the role of middleman and agents during paddy procurement at mandis.
The passage of the bills will enable farmers to get the actual minimum support price (MSP) for their produce which they can sell at the nearest mandi, he said. Pujari, a former State BJP president, alleged that the BJD was opposing the bills as all the regulated market committees (RMCs) in the State are now being controlled by the ruling party in Odisha.
The RMCs have been preventing the farmers from getting the actual MSP for the produce in collusion with different Government departments, he claimed, and alleged that the BJD leaders are against the bills as collection of money from farmers will now come to an end.
Senior BJD leader and the party’s Chief Whip in Rajya Sabha, Sasmit Patra, said the regional outfit has consistently raised its concerns over some inadequacies in the bills and pleaded for steps to put the measures to greater scrutiny to ensure that the interests of farmers are safeguarded.
Therefore, the BJD, which has extended issue-based support to the Centre on several occasions, had in the Lok Sabha sought steps to send the bills to the standing committee, while in Rajya Sabha it pressed for sending these to the select committee for wider consultations, he said. The party opposed the farm bills because of inadequate protection to small and marginal farmers as also sharecroppers and emphasised the need for fine-tuning the measures for effective protection of the farming community, Patra said.
Another senior BJD MP, Prasanna Acharya, said the party was keen on protecting the interests of farmers, but the farm bills lacked some clarity. Therefore, the BJD pressed for referring the bills to the select committee for scrutiny. The two bills, which the Central Government says will change the ecosystem of agricultural marketing, are largely good in intent but probably ignore the implementation aspects, said another senior BJD leader, while expressing apprehension about possible dilution of MSP.
The BJD’s opposition to the Central bills came close on the heels of its support to NDA’s Harivansh Narayan Singh for election to the post of Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha. The Naveen Patnaik-led party has been backing the BJP-led Government on many occasions during the last few years. It supported the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill as well as the Triple Talaq bill last year.
The party was in favour of empowerment of women and therefore supported the Triple Talaq measure, a senior BJD leader said. Earlier, the BJD had supported Modi Government on demonetisation and GST. The regional party had even backed BJP’s Ashiwini Vaishnav in Rajya Sabha election held last year though it was in a comfortable position to win.
However, BJP MP Pujari attacked the BJD for its demand to refer the farm bills to the select committee for wider scrutiny and said the regional party had perhaps not gone through the provisions of the bills meticulously. Pujari asserted that the measures will immensely benefit the entire farming community, including the small and marginal farmers.
“BJD’s opposition to the bills is not due to any love for the farmers but because their own income is now going to dwindle with the new legislation,” he said, adding that the BJD is never bothered about the welfare of farmers. The BJP MP further alleged that the BJD move was perhaps a reflection of the search operations carried out by the CBI on the premises of some of its leaders in the multi-crore rupees chit fund scam cases.
“BJD probably wanted to strike a deal with the Centre for backing the farm bills in lieu of protection against CBI raids on its leaders”, he claimed. Rejecting the allegation, BJD’s Prasanna Acharya said the party had never opposed any CBI probe.
Terming BJD’s opposition to the farm bills as a drama, Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) president Niranjan Patnaik said people of the State know it quite well that both BJD and BJP are together. “The drama was enacted simply to mislead the people.”
But, BJD should not consider the people of the State as fools, he said, adding people have been keeping track of BJD’s support to the BJP-led Government on a number of measures.