Farmers issue 'Voters' Whip' to Opposition ahead of Monsoon Session; Punjab CM urges Modi to resume talks

By PTI
NEW DELHI: Protesting farmers Friday issued a “Voters’ Whip” to Opposition MPs through a letter, asking them to be present in parliament on all days of the Monsoon Session and let no business transact till “the Union Government accedes to the farmers’ demands on the floor of the Houses”.

They have asked the MPs to not stage a walkout and also return to the House even if they are suspended or removed so that the government does not “push through its business unhindered”.

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, which is spearheading the protest against the Centre’s three new agri-marketing laws, told the MPs the “Voters’ Whip” overrides their party whips.

“If you and your party defy this Voters’ Whip, the farmers of India will be compelled to oppose you on every public stage just as we oppose the leaders, MLAs, MPs of the BJP and its allies,” the SKM said.

The letter will be handed or sent to the MPs on Saturday as a precursor to the farmers’ protest outside parliament starting July 22, the SKM said.

The agitating farmers have “directed” the MPs to raise their issues and ensure: “That you must, without fail, be present in the parliament for all the days of the Monsoon session beginning 19th of July 2021; That you and your party must, without break, raise the farmers’ issues and support the above mentioned demands of farmers’ movement on the floor of the house.”

It has demanded the MPs to not let “any other business” to be transacted in the House till “the Union Government accedes to the farmers’ demands on the floor of the Houses”.

“That you or any other member of your party must not stage a ‘walk out’ that enables the ruling party to push through its business unhindered, that you must return to the House even if suspended or removed from the House,” it demanded.

The farmers’ body has planned that around 200 farmers will hold protests outside parliament every day during the Monsoon Session which would conclude on August 13.

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It also announced on Friday to issue I-cards to the farmers who will be protesting outside parliament.

“Excitement continues to mount about Parliament protest march from July 22, ID card of marchers to be issued by SKM. A huge contingent of women farmers of Krantikari Kisan Union has joined the protesters at Singhu border,” the SKM said in the statement.

Besides Punjab and Haryana, a large number of farmers from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Manipur, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan will participate in the protest, the SKM said.

Thousands of farmers from across the country have been agitating at the Delhi borders against the three farm laws that they claim will do away with the Minimum Support Price system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporations.

Over 10 rounds of talks with the government, which has been projecting the laws at major agricultural reforms, have failed to break the deadlock.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to immediately resume talks with agitating farmers, sending him a letter that cited “cross-border threat” by ISI-backed groups ahead of the state assembly polls.

Singh proposed to lead an all-party delegation from Punjab for a discussion with the prime minister to find a durable and amicable solution to the farmers’ protests which are “threatening the state’s social fabric and impacting economic activities as well”, said a government statement.

Protesting farmers are camping at Delhi borders demanding repeal of the Centre’s three farm laws.

In a letter to Modi, the chief minister cited “heightened cross-border threat and increased drone and other terrorist activities by ISI-backed groups, including plans by Khalistani outfits to target certain farmer leaders”.

He warned that powers across the border “may try to play upon the charged emotions of our proud, sincere, and hardworking farmers” of Punjab.

“The situation is presently under control but I fear that provocative statements, conduct of some political parties and the emotional backlash might create law and order problems and also lead to irreversible damage to the hard-earned peace in the state,” Singh said.

He underscored the need for the Union government to address farmers’ genuine concerns.

The statement pointed to “rising resentment” in Punjab on account of the farm laws, which, Singh said, he had asked to be reviewed in his two letters written in 2020.

The statement also noted an increase in drone activity in villages falling within 5-6 km of Indo-Pak border earlier, with “consignments of weapons and heroin being delivered into India by Pakistan”.

Intelligence reports also suggest that with the Assembly elections in Punjab just a few months away, “ISI-led Khalistani and Kashmiri terror outfits are planning terrorist action in the state in the near future”, the statement said.

In his letter, Singh pointed out that farmers have been protesting for the past seven months on Delhi-Haryana borders, and also in the state, demanding repeal of these laws, and their protests have been more or less peaceful.

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“It is a little unfortunate that the multiple rounds of engagement between the Union ministers and representatives of farmers’ groups have not proved successful,” he said.

“Besides the threat to the state’s socio-economic fabric due to the unrest caused by the farm laws, the day-to-day political activities in line with people’s democratic rights are also adversely affected due to the agitation, though the state government has tried its best to maintain law and order,” said the chief minister.

“It has been over seven months since the farmers’ agitation began against the farm laws, which they claim will do away with the minimum support price system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporations,” he said.

Over 10 rounds of talks with the government, which has been projecting the laws as major agricultural reforms, has failed to break the deadlock between the two sides.