New Delhi: In the face of an onslaught from a united Opposition in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was forced to seek a truce, asking for suggestions on how to address the agrarian crisis. He said this while making a brief intervention during an impromptu debate on the suicide of a farmer at an Aam Aadmi Party rally here on Wednesday against the land ordinance.
As he “shared” the “pain” expressed by the MPs, he acknowledged that farmers’ problems were “old, deep-rooted and widespread” and need to be addressed collectively — he was willing to accept any suggestion with “an open mind”.
If Saugata Roy of the Trinamool Congress first asked for a statement by the Prime Minister, M.B. Rajesh of the CPI(M), making the most forceful demand, said that instead of tweeting his sorrow at the tragic suicide of Gajendra Singh, Mr. Modi should speak to the Lok Sabha. When the Prime Minister finally arrived, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, referring to his infrequent appearances, said, “We are indeed fortunate to have your presence,” and sought a judicial inquiry.
The two-hour debate in the Lok Sabha on Thursday on the agrarian crisis saw full-throated exchanges between a combined Opposition and a defensive Bharatiya Janata Party, which is trying to shed its image of running a “callous” “anti-farmer” and “suited-booted” government.
Even while Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh made a factual statement on the events leading up to the suicide of the farmer Gajendra Singh in full public view here, he struck a conciliatory note at one stage, saying neither the government nor the Opposition was “anti-farmer”.
The Opposition joined issue with Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, who took exception to Bhagwant Mann of the Aam Aadmi Party for his statements against the Prime Minister, saying the reference would be expunged. An irate Opposition, led by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and rulebook-waving MPs, forced Ms. Mahajan to say that she would take another look at what was said to decide whether Mr. Mann’s remarks could be described as “unparliamentary”.
If several MPs like Saugata Roy of the Trinamool Congress, Deependra Hooda of the Congress, Bhartuhari Mahtab of the Biju Janata Dal and Arvind Sawant of the Shiv Sena expressed horror that Gajendra Singh killed himself in full view of television cameras, the police and bystanders, M.B. Rajesh of the CPI(M) and Arun Kumar of the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party said the agrarian crisis had been caused by neo-liberal policies and succumbing to the free market.
Rajeev Satav of the Congress, Mr. Mann and Tariq Anwar of the Nationalist Congress Party attacked the government over the land acquisition ordinance. Mr. Anwar said Gajendra had come to a rally held to protest against the ordinance. “You must withdraw the ordinance. This is like rubbing salt into the wounds of farmers,” he said.
The Rajya Sabha, too, witnessed anguish being expressed by members, with those from the Opposition seeking a CBI inquiry and demanding a reply from the Prime Minister in the House.
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