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Why I quit BJP and joined tractor protest

January 26, 2021 14:51 IST

'A perception has been built in our country that whatever Modi says you cannot challenge that.'

IMAGE: Farmers take part in a tractor rally to protest against farm laws on Republic Day in Delhi. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Malvinder Singh Kang, then general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party's Punjab unit, resigned from the party's primary membership last October in protest against the central government's agriculture laws.

After quitting the BJP, Kang has been supporting the farmers who have been camping at Delhi's borders, protesting since November 26 against the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and farm Services Act 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

On January 25, Kang arrived at the Delhi border to take part in the January 26 tractor rally.

Speaking to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/, Kang says, "The BJP central leadership has become too arrogant and undemocratic."

Why is the BJP government so adamant about these laws?

Farmers have understood these laws very well as to how it is against their interest, but the government does not want to understand their viewpoint. These three farm laws have scared farmers.

The agricultural produce market committees (APMCs) in Haryana and Punjab work very well and if you allow private mandis then these existing APMC markets will not be able to survive.

Additionally, these laws talk about contract farming which is all pro-corporates and not pro-farmers.

Thirdly, the Essential Commodities Act has been amended and by doing so the government has given a green signal for the black marketing of farm goods.

Under this law, now the private sector will be able to hoard farm goods and when there is a shortage of farm goods, these corporates will unload their goods and sell it a higher price for more profit.

Prime Minister Modi has repeatedly stated that APMC markets are not going anywhere. Why aren't you believing him?

In Punjab, the FCI (Food Corporation of India) buys 90 per cent of farm goods from farmers. Now if the private sector enters in the market, they will give more price for farm goods for the first three years.

This will lead to the collapse of the established APMC markets.

When goods are sold in the APMC, 8.5 per cent is charged to buyers and not to sellers. And with this money, APMC staff salaries are paid, maintenance of the APMC is carried out and the roads of villages are constructed.

The private sector will not do these things. Take Reliance Jio. They first gave free Internet data to everyone and ensured the competition was finished. And now they have monopolised the mobile market.

The same thing will happen in the farm sector. Farmers fear this.

Therefore, we suggested let these private players come into APMC and buy products from the APMC rather than setting up their own mandis.

The government says the Food Corporation of India is making losses and they want to get out of it. They are quoting Shanta Kumar's report of 2004 to bring in these farm laws.

Now if private players want to buy farm goods let them buy from FCI and give farmers Minimum Support Price. If they are paying more, let it go to the FCI to cover up its losses.

Today, they are giving MSP to only 8-12 per cent of farmers across India. After these three farm laws come into effect even this too will stop.

Farmers have a choice now. Why would you want to bring farmers to mandis where middlemen rule and exploit farmers?

There are no middlemen in mandis. These statements were made by the government to misguide journalists like you.

There are traders sitting in mandis who are registered and called as arthiyas. They have registered licences, which are recognised by the government.

The state government makes guidelines for them from time to time so how can you call them middlemen? These are statements made to tarnish their image.

The concern which farmers have is that the Essential Commodities Act will lead to increase in prices of farm products. Contract farming already exists in Gujarat, Punjab and other states and have failed.

In Pipariya, Madhya Pradesh, there was a farmer who entered into a contract with a private player. Now that private player has disappeared. This farmer is sitting with his ready farm produce. Government mandis have not taken his farm product because he did not bring it in the stipulated time of October to December.

Contract farming is already there and look what is happening to a farmer in Pipariya.

Speaking of the Essential Commodities Act, India is now a country of surplus food. So why do we need this law?

This is a misconception. In 2017, the Modi government imported 5,000 tonnes of wheat from abroad and the government says we are a surplus food country.

All I am asking is why is the Modi government encouraging black marketing of food grain by bringing in these private players? Private players will start by marketing good things and then they monopolise trade.

In Punjab and Haryana, (businessman Gautam) Adani has already built food godowns in the last four-five years. He can store thousands of tonnes of farm goods. A

As I told you, 8.5 per cent of tax is given to the APMC by buyers of farm goods for maintenance and staff salaries. So, if farmers go and sell their produce to Adani then automatically in 4-5 years, the APMC will shut down. There will be only monopoly of this corporate player. Initially, they will give more money than MSP to win over the farmer's confidence.

Why didn't you highlight these points in the BJP?

These farm laws came in June and till September 2020, I highlighted these issues in different party forums.

B L Santosh, the national general secretary, took my feedback on this issue. Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar had two meetings and I highlighted these points from day one to the party leadership.

I told them in clear terms if they think private players will give more money to farmers then let them go to mandis and buy farm goods. Let them pay MSP to farmers and pay above price to the FCI.

If this happens, then FCI too will become surplus in the next four-five years.

I also said that in matters of dispute settlement going to the sub-divisional magistrate as mentioned in these laws is not good. Farmers cannot go to court. And they fear that corporates will have more influence over the sub-divisional magistrate than them.

There are so many BJP MPs who are farmers. Don't they understand what you are saying is right?
Home Minister Amit Shah is a farmer according to the affidavit he submitted during the Lok Sabha election. Does he not understand farmers' problems?

All these so-called farmers have taken agriculture land to save tax or for their personal hobby of farming. They have so much surplus money, therefore they have bought farm land.

Amit Shah has never done farming. He is not a real farmer. Many of these MPs have taken farmhouses for going for a vacation with their kids.

The people who work on farms know the ground reality. The government should have legalised MSP. They should have implemented the successful APMC model of Punjab and Haryana across the country.

If they wanted to diversify the cropping pattern, they should have made 10-year plans to do so.

They could have made budget provisions as they do in the United States and Europe. Till 1970, 9 per cent of people of Punjab used to produce rice. After the Green Revolution was launched, 95 per cent of farmers are producing rice and wheat in Punjab.

When the government wanted us, we produced rice for them. Now they want to run away because Madhya Pradesh and UP is also producing rice.

By producing rice and wheat, you depleting the ground water table of Punjab. Why do you not want water for future generations of Punjab?

I agree with you. This is a serious concern, but a different issue.

I am saying 23 farm products get MSP from the government. Cotton MSP is Rs 6,600 per quintal, but selling it at Rs 4,200. The same is the case with maize. The MSP is 1,850, but selling at Rs 650 in Punjab mandis.

Now if you do not assure MSP to farmers, how will he opt for diversification? He farms rice and wheat because he is helpless as he knows he will get MSP for sure with these two crops.

Nobody listened to you in the BJP about these issues, therefore you had to quit the party. Didn't anybody stand up for you in the BJP?

The BJP was a party with a difference, but today it is only a party of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.

It is a two-man party. Internal democracy is over in the BJP.

Before resigning, I told BJP Punjab leaders that we should go and meet Amit Shahji or (BJP national president) J P Naddaji, but they did not take any initiative.

They said if Modi has got introduced these three farm laws, then there should be no more arguments.

Talking against these laws for them was like a Dharam Sankat. No one wanted to debate on this issue as no one has the guts to do that in the BJP.

The BJP central leadership has become too arrogant and undemocratic. There are good leaders like Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari, but no one listens to their viewpoints.

People in the party only want to hear good things about Modi.

Today, the situation has worsened because the right feedback is not given to Modi. And therefore, we are seeing this crisis. I went to Madhya Pradesh last week and farmers there are also suffering due to these three farm laws.

Modi is a leader who has risen from ground level politics. He has a sense of what people want. How could he go so wrong on these three farm laws?

A perception has been built in our country that whatever Modi says you cannot challenge that.

In the past, we have seen many popular leaders taking decisions but they have reversed it when they came to know it is unpopular.

You cannot say all the time 'If Modi has taken a decision, then it must be right.'

There is no internal party democracy now and this will harm the BJP in the future for sure.

The Modi government was willing to withdraw these laws for 18 months, but the farmers didn't budge.

Agriculture is a state subject and the Modi government says they have made these laws to give more freedom to farmers.

Now when agriculture is a state subject, how can the Centre make a law on agriculture? Kisan unions have raised this point. This is an unconstitutional law.

If the government is saying they will withdraw it for 18 months, it means the government is on backfoot and wants to put these three farm laws in cold storage. There is no doubt about it.

If the government had a big heart, then it should have withdrawn these laws and let respective state governments make the laws.

At best, the Centre can make a model Act like the ones that were made during (then prime minister Atal Bihari) Vajpayee's time or Dr Manmohan Singh's time too. This is an idea -- the Centre makes a model Act and state governments regulate it.

But now it has become an ego issue for the Modi government to withdraw these three farm laws. They have become arrogant due to the majority they won in the 2019 election.

The farmers revolt did two good things. First, it exposed TV journalists who were standing with the government.

Second, the unity and brotherhood that was being threatened by the Modi government in the country has been exposed. You see everyone -- Hindu, Muslim, Sikhs, every community -- has come together for the protest.

You were in the BJP till four months ago. You are now saying harsh words about your former party. Didn't you see these things earlier?

When Article 370 was repealed, I raised this issue in an internal platform.

When Punjabi was not included as the official language in Jammu and Kashmir, I protested against that in a party forum.

There is a limit to tolerance. How long can one tolerate it?

On October 14, the Modi government called farmers for a meeting in Delhi, but the ministers did not come for the meeting. They sent junior government officers for the talks.

They insulted farmers. The very next day I resigned from the BJP.

The government is for the people and if Modi does not understand this, then people will make him understand in the coming days.