NEW DELHI — On Friday, thousands of farmers marched on Delhi's roads, delivering a strong message to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government months ahead of the general election.
In the process, they also became a rallying point that brought key opposition leaders on one stage — giving the BJP even more reason to worry.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and former JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav, among others, turned up to announce their support for the massive outpouring of farmers.
Other leaders who could not attend in person, including Telugu Desam Party chief N. Chandrababu Naidu, Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav, sent their representatives in their stead. Almost all the leaders present used the opportunity to lash out at the Narendra Modi government.
Gandhi asked why the Modi government couldn't waive off farmers' loans. "Farmers are not asking for any gift. They are only demanding their rights. The Prime Minister had promised proper MSP (minimum support price) and bonus. The farmers are not demanding Anil Ambani's jet from Modi. But he is only making hollow speeches, " Gandhi said.
He also assured the protesters that the Congress would stand by them.
Kejriwal said that no country can progress when farmers and the youth were unhappy. "It is sad that all of you had to come here for your demands. Prime Minister Modi has backstabbed you. I demand immediate implementation of the Swaminathan commission report. Take back your affidavit from the Supreme Court and implement it or the farmers of this country will destroy you in the coming elections," Kejriwal said, terming the government's crop insurance scheme as the BJP's scheme to loot farmers.
Abdullah and Yadav asked the crowd to be wary of the BJP's plans to divide the society on the eve of elections.
Yechury stressed on the need for a government which would implement pro-farmer and pro-poor policies.
Pawar also extended his party's complete support to the two bills proposed by the farmers. The two bills are The Farmers Freedom from Indebtedness Bill, 2018 and Farmers' Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Price for Agricultural Commodities Bill, 2018.
Farmer leader and Lok Sabha MP Raju Shetty had tabled the bills in August.
Until afternoon, Gandhi, Kejriwal and Pawar had not been scheduled to address the gathering.
What needs to be seen is how long this fragile unity will last, especially considering that the winter session of Parliament will begin on 11 December.
The organisers of the march said that 21 political parties have assured them that they will support these two bills in Parliament.
Apart from this, the farmers who were marching under the banner of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), are demanding debt relief, remunerative prices for their produce and a special session of Parliament to address agrarian issues, among other things.