Heralding a stormy Budget Session of Parliament, which begins tomorrow, the entire Opposition has decided to boycott President Ram Nath Kovind’s traditional address to the joint sitting of Parliament in solidarity with agitating farmers protesting against the three contentious farm laws.
In a joint statement, leaders of 16 Opposition parties expressed solidarity with the agitating farmers and regretted that “the Prime Minister and the BJP government remain arrogant, adamant and undemocratic in their response” to the issue. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) also separately announced their decision to boycott the address.
Describing the Opposition parties’ move as “most unfortunate”, Parliamentary Affairs minister Pralhad Joshi urged them to reconsider their decision.
Speaking to reporters, he said the issues cited by the Opposition parties for boycotting the President’s address can be raised during the debate on the motion of thanks. The 16 parties, including the Congress, NCP, DMK, Shiv Sena, Trinamul Congress and the Left parties said in their joint statement: “The three farm laws are an assault on the rights of the States and violate the federal spirit of the Constitution.”
If not repealed, these laws will effectively dismantle the edifice of the National Food Security that rests upon MSP, government procurement and the Public Distribution System (PDS), the leaders said.
Indicative of how the farmer-government confrontation over the agri laws will cast its shadow on the coming session of Parliament, the Opposition leaders said the farm Bills were brought without any consultations with states and farmer unions, and lacked national consensus.
“Parliamentary scrutiny was bypassed and the laws were pushed through muzzling the Opposition, in brazen violation of Parliamentary rules, practices and conventions. The very constitutional validity of these laws remains in question,” the Opposition statement said. The Opposition leaders said the farmers were fighting against the three agri laws “that threaten the future of Indian agriculture which sustains over 60 per cent of India’s population and the livelihood of crores of farmers, sharecroppers and farm labour.”
They said the farmers were agitating on Delhi’s borders braving biting cold and heavy rain for the last 64 days. Over 155 farmers had lost their lives.
“The Government remains unmoved and has responded with water cannons, tear gas and lathicharge. Every effort has been made to discredit to legitimate mass movement through Government-sponsored disinformation campaign,” the Opposition said.
The protest and the agitation were largely peaceful, the leaders said. Unfortunately there were a few acts of violence on 26 January in the national Capital. “We also express our sadness over the injuries sustained by Delhi Police personnel. But we believe that an impartial investigation will reveal the Centre’s nefarious role in orchestrating those events,” the Opposition said.