Navjot Sidhu’s differences with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh made its presence felt at a public meeting today that was attended by Rahul Gandhi. Sharing stage with the Chief Minister and Mr Gandhi at the rally meant to protest against the Centre’s new farm laws, Mr Sidhu argued that if the Centre stops paying Minimum Support Prices to farmers, the state should step in and make the payments.
“If Himachal Pradesh can purchase apples, why can’t we purchase crops… give them Minimum Support Price? If the Punjab government can provide MSP to farmers, we will be self-reliant,” said Mr Sidhu.
The state government “should come forward to help farmers”, added the former minister who shifted camp from the BJP to the Congress in 2017.
Farmers have been hugely concerned about the Minimum Support Price, which they fear will be phased out by the new laws which allow them to sell directly to corporates and even undertake contract farming.
“If we won’t fight these black laws, everything will go to Ambani and Adani, who will come with big lawyers. I don’t know how farmers will deal with then,” Mr Sidhu said, echoing the farmers’ fear of being unequal to dealing with big corporates.
“The Central government wants to snatch our assured income and it is an attack on the federal structure,” Mr Sidhu said.
Punjab, he said, earned ₹ 5,000 crore last year through kisan mandis or wholesale markers. “Our forefathers have constructed these mandis. The Centre is robbing us of our rights,” he said.
Amid the protests over the farm laws, the BJP-led Central government announced a hike in MSP last month, a month ahead of schedule. The procurement dates have already been brought forward.
The Congress is holding a three-day “Kheti Bachao Yatra” ( March to protect the agricultural sector) which is aimed to highlight the Congress stand against the laws that were cleared by the parliament last month amid fiery protests by the opposition.