BJP Has Slim Lead Over Opposition In Numbers Game On Farm Bills

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

New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha is set for a potentially explosive Sunday showdown over the farm bills, with the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress each trying to engineer enough support to either pass or defeat the three pieces of legislation. All three sailed through the Lok Sabha earlier this week but could face a stronger challenge in the Upper House, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party does not have a majority on its own and will need help from allies – within and outside the NDA. There have been widespread protests over the “anti-farmer” bills, particularly in Punjab and Haryana, despite PM Modi’s assurances that farmers can still avail a Minimum Sale Price (MSP). The protests included one from long-time BJP ally Akali Dal; the Punjab party withdrew its representative from the Union Cabinet on Friday and is said to be reviewing its ties with the BJP-led NDA.

Here are the top 10 points in this big story:

  1. The current strength of the Upper House is 243 with a majority mark of 122. In what is already a very tight race, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is expected to have around 105 votes, while the opposition should have around 100.

  2. 10 MPs have tested positive for COVID-19 and have been isolated at home. A further 15 MPs, including the Congress’s P Chidambaram – who this morning hit out at Prime Minister Modi over the farm bills – have expressed their inability to attend. Both these developments should help the BJP since it brings down the majority mark.

  3. The BJP, on its own, has 86 members, and, with its NDA allies, it can count on 105 votes. It cannot, however, count on three Akali MPs, who have been given a three-line whip to vote against all the farm bills. Despite this, the BJP remains confident of mustering the required numbers to see all three bills pass.

  4. The Akali Dal – one of the BJP’s oldest allies – pulled its sole representative – Harsimrat Kaur Badal – from the Union Cabinet on Friday in protest against the bills. Speaking to NDTV Mrs Badal said open communication between the government and farmers was necessary. Party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said the Akalis would review ties with the NDA.

  5. The BJP, which has issued a three-line whip of its own, according to news agency ANI, is confident because it has, in the past, been able to call on “friendly” regional parties – like Odisha’s BJD, Andhra Pradesh’s YSR Congress and Telangana’s TRS – to vote in its favour when needed.

  6. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress has six seats and K Chandrasekhar Rao’s TRS has seven. Naveen Patnaik’s BJD has nine seats. Sources say that the government is confident that overall around 135 MPs will vote in support of the farm bills, if voting is required.

  7. The Congress-led opposition, on the other hand – which includes 13 Trinamool Congress MPs – will be on the back foot going into tomorrow’s face-off. The Congress itself has 40 seats and can count on several regional and smaller parties – such as the BSP (four seats), the Samajwadi Party (eight seats) and Delhi’s AAP (three seats).

  8. The opposition will need the likes of the YSR Congress, the BJD and the TRS on board to have any chance of a win. Sources have said the Congress has reached out to these three but the response is not encouraging.

  9. Worse still, 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. The NCP holds four Rajya Sabha seats.

  10. 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. On Friday, Prime Minister Modi hit out at a “misinformation” campaign. He said “fake news” was being spread that farmers would not get a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their produce and that this produce would not be bought by the government.

With input from ANI


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