Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday assured protesting farmers that the government is ready for talks at any time and accused the opposition of “spreading innumerable lies” about the controversial farm laws.
He alleged the opposition prioritized political interests over the welfare of farmers.
Modi’s remarks came amid a month-long agitation by farmers on the outskirts of Delhi over their demand for repealing the three pro-market laws. Talks between the government and farmers have been deadlocked even as opposition parties have poured in support for the protesting farmers.
“Talks must happen,” Modi said. “We believe in democratic values and we are dedicated to the welfare of farmers, which is the reason that the government is ready for talks at any time on issues related to farmers. We are approaching this with an open heart to arrive at a solution.”
Modi was addressing an event held to release the next instalment of financial benefits under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN).
“Several political parties had earlier supported such proposals. Their written statements are available. But today they have made a U-turn, their language has changed and now those who do not believe in democracy are misleading farmers. I ask everyone politely, even those who are opposing us, our government is ready to talk to even them when it comes to welfare of farmers, but the talks will happen on issues,” he added.
During the event, the government transferred more than ₹18,000 crore to more than 90 million farmer families. Modi also virtually interacted with farmers from six states who shared their experiences of farm-related schemes run by the Centre and their views on the new farm laws.
In one of his sharpest recent attacks on opposition parties, Modi accused them of doublespeak on farm issues, keeping only political benefits in mind, misleading farmers and not doing enough for them either when they were in power at the Centre or in states like West Bengal and Kerala.
His most stinging criticism was reserved for the Trinamool Congress, which is in power in poll-bound West Bengal, accusing it of not allowing the implementation of PM-KISAN in the state for political reasons. He said if the scheme were allowed in the state, more than 7 million farmers would benefit.
“West Bengal government in its own state gauges political benefits before implementing schemes. Then in Punjab, they join those whom they oppose in their own state. The entire country is watching all this. We are witnessing an ugly example of politics of selfishness in this country,” he said.
Referring to Left parties, which are in power in Kerala, and Congress, which led the previous government there, Modi said the processes they are fighting for in the present farm laws are absent in Kerala. When in power, the opposition parties have done nothing for farmers’ welfare, he said.
“These people are not willing to accept to any parameters of democracy. They are only searching for ways to remain relevant. They have a right to do politics but they cannot play with lives and future of farmers,” he added.
Responding to the speech, Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, “PM Modi and the BJP government are working on the policy of ‘tire till they leave’ to the farmers. The PM calls for cleanliness and his ministers cry on TV, but the Modi government is working for a handful of capitalists, has become farmers’ enemy. The bitter truth is that the Modi government does not want to solve farmers’ problem and is resorting to political dishonesty.”