Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh on Thursday put the Central government on notice and warned that unless the sugar cane pricing ordinance was withdrawn, farmers would stop supplies of commodities and milk to the capital.
“We will shut down Delhi,” he declared at a massive rally of farmers.
The rally, which stopped Delhi on its tracks, not only catapulted the issue to the centre stage but also saw political leaders cutting across party lines vying to address the farmers who were said to number more than 1.5 lakh and thronged every street, from the Ramlila Grounds to the Jantar Mantar. The rally had leaders of the Left parties sharing the platform with socialists and Bharatiya Janata Party leaders.
“After many many years, you have united the Opposition,” said BJP vice-president Arun Jaitley. “It is not the question of Left, right or centre; it is the question of farmers,” said D. Raja of the Communist Party of India, who questioned the haste with which the Centre introduced the ordinance when the winter session of Parliament was just a few weeks away.
Mr. Ajit Singh said the “black law” that allowed the Centre to fix a fair and remunerative price for sugar cane while discouraging the States to set a higher state advised price should be withdrawn. “This ordinance that reduces a grower’s income by 25 per cent should be repealed.”
Mill owners should hold talks with farmers to agree upon a price, he said. Unless that happened, mills would not start operations in Uttar Pradesh, the second largest producer of cane, and Parliament would be disrupted
While Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh said his party would go to the people, general secretary Amar Singh termed the ordinance “pro-millers and anti-farmers” and lashed out at the Mayawati government.
Among those who addressed the rally were Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav, Basudeb Acharia of the CPI (M), Gurudas Dasgupta of the CPI, Nama Nageswara Rao of the Telugu Desam Party, Raju Shetti of the Swabhiman Party and Gopinath Munde of the BJP.
Earlier speaking to journalists in Parliament, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, when asked whether he blamed Agriculture and Food Minister Sharad Pawar for the crisis, said: “When we say the government, it has to be kept in mind that Sharad Pawar is also in the government. Be it Sharad Pawar or anyone else, whoever is in the government has to face criticism for it.”
Significantly, the All-India Bharatiya Kisan Union, which first raised the issue by staging a dharna here, did not participate in the rally, nor did Mahendra Singh Tikait address the farmers.