Amid Protests, Big Test For Farm Bills In Rajya Sabha Today: 10 Points

Amid Protests, Big Test For Farm Bills In Rajya Sabha Today: 10 Points

The farm bills will help farmers get a better price for their produce, the government says. (File)

New Delhi: Three agriculture-related bills, which have been passed in the Lok Sabha amid farmer protests and opposition walk-outs, will be taken up in the Rajya Sabha today. The Congress-led opposition is trying to cobble together the numbers to shoot down the three pieces of legislation, which it says is “anti-farmer”. The ruling BJP, with support from its NDA allies and a few “friendly” parties, is expected to have the advantage if the bills are put to vote. The passage of the bills in the Lower House had led to the exit of sole representative of BJP’s long-time ally Akali Dal from the Union Cabinet. The bills have stirred massive protests in agriculture-dependent states where farmers fear loss of livelihood.

Here are the top 10 points in this big story:

  1. The three bills are – the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill; the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill. Almost all opposition parties are demanding that the bills should be sent to select committee of the House.

  2. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is expected to have around 105 votes in the Upper House which has a current absolute strength of 243. Two seats are vacant and the majority mark is set at 122. The Congress-led opposition should have around 100. Around 32 MPs from various parties – such as the YSR Congress, AIADMK and the BJD – are likely to play a crucial role today.

  3. BJP has issued a three-line whip to all of its Rajya Sabha MPs to be present in the House. “Agriculture bills are for the benefit of farmers and they will pass from Rajya Sabha also,” a BJP Rajya Sabha MP said. The BJP, on its own, has 86 members or votes. With its NDA allies, it can count on 105. It cannot, however, count on three Akali MPs, who have been given a three-line whip to vote against the bills, signalling a U-turn for a party that initially supported the laws. Despite this, the BJP believes it is in pole position to win any vote that may be called on the farm bills.

  4. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which has previously lent issue-based support to the government, has asked its seven members to vote against the bills. TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao has termed these legislations as “sugar-coated pills” that will do a lot of injustice to the farm sector in the country.

  5. 10 MPs have tested positive for coronavirus and will not be in the Rajya Sabha today. A further 15 MPs, including the Congress’s P Chidambaram – who on Saturday morning hit out at PM Modi over the bills – will not attend on health grounds. This should help the BJP since it brings down the majority mark. AIADMK with nine MPs has already announced its support for the farm bills.

  6. The Congress-led opposition, on the other hand – which includes 13 Trinamool Congress MPs and seven from the DMK – will be on the back foot going into today’s face-off. The Congress itself has 40 seats and can count on a few others – such as the BSP (four seats), the Samajwadi Party (eight seats) and Delhi’s ruling AAP (three seats).

  7. In more trouble for the Opposition, the Shiv Sena – with whom the Congress has formed a tripartite government in Maharashtra – has said its three MPs will support the bills despite a spectacular fall-out with the BJP after Assembly elections last year. The BJP, sources added, has also reached out to the NCP – the third member of that alliance – which has four seats.

  8. The government has said the bills will help small and marginal farmers by empowering them to sell their produce at competitive prices anywhere in India. The farmers are concerned that this eliminates the Minimum Support Price (MSP). On Friday, Prime Minister Modi hit out at a “misinformation” campaign by the opposition over the MSP.

  9. Since the Modi government assumed office for its second time in 2019, opposition parties have not been able to stall any of its major bills due to a rise in the ranks of treasury benches and a corresponding fall in the opposition ranks.

  10. The monsoon session of the parliament is expected to be cut short because of fears over the coronavirus pandemic. The Lok Sabha is likely to wrap up by Wednesday and the Rajya Sabha will follow suit. Twenty-five MPs (10 from the Rajya Sabha) have tested positive for the virus so far, leading to fears it may spread further still.

With inputs from agencies


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