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Farmers stir: Opposition unity to the fore as non-BJP parties give teeth to Bharat Bandh

Claiming that their agitation has spread across the nation, farmer leaders, who have maintained that their protest is apolitical, welcomed the support.

Published: 07th December 2020 01:35 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th December 2020 08:19 AM   |  A+A-

Farmers from Tamil Nadu participate in Farmers protest march against the new farm laws at Singhu border in New Delhi on Sunday. (Photo | Shekhar Yadav/EPS)

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: The Bharat Bandh called by agitating farmers on Tuesday received overwhelming support from the Opposition parties, with the Congress, Left and regional outfits throwing their weight behind the protest against the new farm laws.

While the sixth round of talks between the Centre and farmers are scheduled for Wednesday, Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar held parleys with his deputies on the scope of concessions to be offered to the farmers.

Claiming that their agitation has spread across the nation, farmer leaders, who have maintained that their protest is apolitical, welcomed the support and urged all to come forward to make Tuesday's Bharat Bandh a success.

After five rounds of talks between the Centre and the farmer unions failed to end the impasse, the two sides are again set to meet on December 9, a day after the countrywide strike.

"This agitation is not only of Punjab farmers but is of the entire nation. We are going to strengthen our agitation and it has already spread across the nation," farmer leader Baldev Singh Yadav said at a press conference.

"Since the government was not able to deal with us properly, we gave a call for Bharat Bandh," he said and appealed to everyone to make sure that the bandh remains peaceful.

"We won't let anyone turn it violent and would take strict action against them. We request everyone to be part of the bandh," he said.

During the bandh, shops and businesses will remain shut.

Ambulances and other emergency services will be exempted, farmer leaders said.

Congress general secretary, organisation, K C Venugopal issued a statement saying all state units of the party will extend support to the proposed Bharat Bandh.

He added that Congress workers, volunteers and leaders across the country will organise demonstrations in support of the Bandh call given by 32 farm unions.

The NCP also rallied behind the protesting farmers in extending support to the Bharat Bandh.

Maharashtra NCP unit president Jayant Patil said that party workers will join the proposed nationwide shutdown. NCP chief Sharad Pawar is scheduled to meet President Ram Nath Kovind on December 9 over the farm protest.

The Aam Aadmi Party has also decided to extend full support to the Bharat Bandh, the party announced on Sunday, with the Delhi convenor and cabinet minister Gopal Rai on Sunday saying that the chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has extended full support to the call for the nationwide shutdown.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, DMK chief M K Stalin and PAGD chairman Farooq Abdullah issued a joint statement on Sunday, supporting the bandh, calling upon the Centre to meet the genuine demands of the farmers. RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, CPI general secretary D Raja, general secretary of CPI(ML) Dipankar Bhattacharya, AIFB general secretary Debabrata Biswas and Manoj Bhattacharya, general secretary of RSP, have also signed the joint statement.

Boxer Vijender Singh joins farmers at Singhu border on Sunday | Shekhar Yadav

Meanwhile, the BJP went into a counter offensive against the Opposition leaders on Sunday, releasing letters written by the likes of Sharad Pawar in 2010 as a Union minister to state chief ministers wherein he had argued for the alternative mechanism to the APMC mandis and encouragement for the private players in procurement of the foodgrains.

Some auto, taxi unions in Delhi to join 'Bharat Bandh' on Tuesday

Commuters may face problems as some auto and taxi unions in the city have decided to join 'Bharat Bandh' on December 8 called by farmer unions protesting against the recent farm laws.

However, many other unions have decided to continue normal service despite their support to demand raised by the farmers.

Delhi Taxi Tourist Transporters Association President Sanjay Samrat said in a statement that several unions, including Delhi State Taxi Cooperative Society, and Kaumi Ekta Welfare Association will join the strike on December 8.

Representaives of various bus and taxi associations on Sunday visited the protesters at Singhu border to extend their support to them, Samrat said.

Kamaljeet Gill, president of Sarvodaya Driver Association of Delhi, comprising mainly drivers working with cab aggregators, said it will also join the strike on Tuesday.

However, Rajender Soni, general secretary of Delhi Auto Rickshaw Sangh, and Delhi Pradesh Taxi Union said that many "important" auto, taxi and last mile vehicle driver unions will not join the strike.

"We fully sympathise with the farmers struggle and support their demand. But the drivers of autos, taxis and Gramin Sewa and other last mile vehicles are already hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and can not afford to strike now," Soni said.

Chandu Chaurasia, vice president of Capital Driver Welfare Association, said the demands of farmers need to be met by the government but it should not be achieved by causing inconvenience to ordinary people.

SP to hold farmer rallies across UP today

The Samajwadi Party will organise farmer rallies in all districts of Uttar Pradesh from December 7 with its chief Akhilesh Yadav slated to take part in such a rally in Kannauj district on a tractor, the party said in statement on Sunday.

The decision came after opposition parties, including many regional outfits such as the Samajwadi Party, came out in strong support of the 'Bharat Bandh' on December 8 called by farmer unions which have been protesting on Delhi's borders for 11 days demanding the repeal of the Centre's new agri-marketing laws.

In the statement issued here, the Samajwadi Party said the youth and farmers from different districts will take out anti-government rallies to inform people about the "bad policies" of the BJP government of the state.

Yadav will travel on a tractor from Thathia to Tirwa, covering almost 13 kilometres.

"Under the BJP's rule, the farmers have faced injustice the most. The BJP is selling mandis and the farmers are not even getting the minimum support price of paddy. The prices of fertilisers and pesticides have gone up. The BJP government has shown an insensitive attitude towards farmers," the SP said in the statement.

"The three farm laws, which the Centre had passed puts the ownership of land of the farmers at risk. They are being forced to go for corporate farming," the statement said.

Akhilesh Yadav also on Sunday paid tributes to Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar at the party office on his death anniversary.

"Today, the atmosphere is that the rights of the citizens are getting snatched. Games are being played with the 'annadata' (farmers). The farmers have gathered at the border of Delhi. The BJP has got the votes of the poor and farmers, so it must listen to them. But, the irony is that the BJP wants to give an opportunity to the industrialists," the statement said.

Shiv Sena jumps the gun too

The ruling Shiv Sena in Maharashtra on Sunday extended its support to the 'Bharat Bandh' called on December 8 by farmer unions which have been protesting on Delhi's borders for 11 days demanding repeal of the Centre's new agri-marketing laws.

"Shiv Sena president and CM Uddhav Thackeray is against the Central laws which are anti-farmer and anti-labour. We support the Bharat bandh," Rajya Sabha MP Anil Desai told PTI on Sunday night.

Earlier in the day, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Prem Singh Chandumajra met CM Thackeray in Mumbai.

He told reporters that Thackeray supported the Akali Dal's stand on the farmers' protest.

Chandumajra said Thackeray agreed with his party on the issue of the Centre's alleged interference into the "rights of state governments" in fields like education, agriculture and law and order.

Alleging that revenues of states were being diluted, Chandumajra said there was a need for regional parties to unite against "attempts to centralise" the country's politics.

The Shiv Sena had snapped ties with the BJP after the Maharashtra Assembly polls last year over the issue of sharing the chief ministerial post.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) quit the BJP-led NDA in September this year to protest against the Centre's new agri-marketing laws.

Thousands of farmers are sitting on various borders of New Delhi since November 26 against the laws and have called for a 'Bharat Bandh' on December 8.

"If states are strong, the nation will be stronger. If states are weak, the country will be weaker. Today, the country's political system is being centralised. The Shiromani Akali Dal is for federalism," Chandumajra said.

"Even Uddhav Thackeray is of the view that rights of states need to be protected," he said.

Regional parties need to be united, the SAD leader said.

"Thackeray agrees with the Akali Dal on the issue of Central government's interference in state governments' rights in education, agriculture and law and order," he said, while alleging that "revenues of states are being diluted".

Chandumajra met Thackeray at 'Varsha', the official residence of Maharashtra's chief minister here.

He said Thackeray supported the Akali Dal's stand on the ongoing farmers' protest.

(With PTI Inputs)



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