THE WEEK|October 04, 2020
Farmers’ organisations are on the warpath against new reforms

What happened in the Rajya Sabha on September 20 was unprecedented and against constitutional propriety. Both the government and the opposition agree on this, but for different reasons.

The trouble started when Deputy Chairman Harivansh asked for proceedings to be extended to pass two crucial agriculture reform bills. The opposition resisted. As Harivansh persisted, agitated members of the Congress, the Trinamool Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party rushed to the well saying the chair was being partisan. Some opposition members tore rulebooks, threw papers and advanced menacingly towards Harivansh before the marshals restrained them.

The house eventually passed the two contentious bills with a voice vote. The opposition parties then boycotted the session. On September 22, the house passed another bill, again with a voice vote. “The division (voting) could not have been allowed when there was ruckus inside the house,” said Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. “The deputy chairman asked them to return to their seats 13 times.”

Farming has always been a sensitive issue in India, especially politically. For instance, parties have often won elections by promising farm loan waivers; the Congress won Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan in 2018, and the BJP won Uttar Pradesh in 2017 with a similar promise.

No one wants to alienate the farmers, and the Modi government knows that. For the first time, the opposition may have an issue that it can use to mobilise crowds against the government; it failed to do so during demonetisation and the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax.


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October 04, 2020