Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 19
BJP national general secretary Tarun Chugh is confident that the party will form the next government in Punjab. Talking to The Tribune on issues ranging from the ongoing farmer agitation to the BJP’s relationship with the Akalis and its future plans in Punjab, the senior leader says “preparations have started on a war footing to contest all 117 Vidhan Sabha seats in 2022”.
Q: As a BJP leader from Punjab, do you think the Centre misjudged the underlying anger among farmers on the three laws?
A: Nothing of the sort. Discussions on reforms in agriculture marketing have been going on for the last almost 20 years in political, administrative and academic circles. I wish protesting farmers had seen the bills for themselves instead of getting misled by malicious propaganda of the Opposition parties and people of other vested interests.
Even during the Vajpayee government time, the discussions on the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) had started and were carried on during the UPA government times, during which as many as 13 states, including Punjab, implemented the new APMC rules.
The new APMC Act was passed in 2003, following which new rules were framed which were implemented by many states.
The then union agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar, in 2012 told the Rajya Sabha that “there are some (reforms) which have already been accepted, for instance, recommendation regarding liberalising agri-procurement…We have requested all Cooperation Ministers in the states to make amendment in the APMC Act”.
The Dalwai committee formed during the first Modi government recommended the adoption of the new Agricultural Marketing Act of 2017, which was adopted by 16 states.
A second Dalwai Committee was set up in 2018 to protect the interests of producers and sponsors of contract farming. This second Dalwai Committee, recommended another Model Act which dealt with contract farming. This Model Contract Framing Act was circulated to all states/UTs in May 2018.
Tamil Nadu and Odisha have adopted this Model Contract Farming Act of 2018. So there is nothing like that the Centre had done something out of the blue.
Q: Do you think the crisis could have been averted/handled in a better way by the Centre?
A: As I told you, the protest seems to have gone in the hands of people with vested interests who wanted to build an opposition to the Modi government and found an emotive issue of farming for the purpose.
Q: Are Punjab leaders, from all parties, also not responsible for the escalation of the crisis?
A: The Congress government, led by Amarinder Singh, fanned and supported the initial voices of resentment and gave it a shape of state-wide campaign. The SAD, whose leaders were all along aware and part of the process of making three bills, took to the backdoor to run away from the NDA alliance and added fuel to the fire. Leftist parties have been openly building a propagandist narrative to mislead gullible farmers.
Q: What about the BJP?
A: We have been making all efforts to make farmers understand the true spirit of the bills, which was to empower them and help them double their income.
Q: The amendments being offered by the Centre virtually rewrite the Acts. Then why doesn’t the government simply repeal them, start afresh and end this agitation?
A: The proposed amendments are meant to bring peace and to reassure farmers that the Centre will always protect their interests. They do not alter the spirit of the bills. They are just reassuring and there is nothing wrong in that.
Q: The BJP is planning to strike alone in Punjab. Do you think the current situation will affect your position in the state?
A: The BJP has been contesting elections in Punjab since 1952. In 1992, when it contested alone, it polled 16.7 per cent votes and won six seats. It is a firmly rooted party in Punjab and our base is expanding. We have started preparations on a war footing to contest all 117 Vidhan Sabha seats in the 2022 elections. The organisational structure at 23,000 polling booths is being strengthened by mobilising workers at the grassroot level. We are sure to form the next government in Punjab.
Q: Your former ally, Sukhbir Badal, has made some very harsh statements about your party
A: Sukhbir Badal is making divisive and provocative statements that reflect his desperation. He is trying to contain the declining graph of the party after many SAD stalwarts left the party in the wake of his arrogant style of functioning. His remarks against the BJP are at best childish. The BJP has always worked for Hindu-Sikh unity in Punjab and has made sure the brotherhood between the two communities did not suffer even during the worst of times during the militancy days.
Q: Do you think after what has happened, what will happen to the BJP tie-up with the Akalis
A: The SAD has broken the alliance, not us. Now whether we will re-join hands or not, only time can tell. Moreover, the SAD is all in pieces now. It’s a “tukde tukde” Akali Dal out of which all stalwarts such as Brahampura ji, Dhindsa ji, Ajnala ji have left.
Q: What do you think is the future of this agitation henceforth?
A: The Centre has addressed all major concerns of farmers. It is ready to hold more talks to dispel any doubts The BJP hopes farmers would soon call off their protest reposing faith in the leadership of PM Modi who has already implemented so many farmers’ welfare schemes including the “fasal bima yojna”.
Q: You said 3,000 persons from other political parties have joined the BJP since the agitation
A: Many senior leaders from prominent parties are ready to join us. We will contest on the basis of a large number of welfare schemes PM Modi has implemented and highlight how the Amarinder Singh government has become a government of mafias, be it drug mafia, land mafia or liquor mafia, there has been embezzlement in funds of the Central Government schemes, particularly the SC scholarship scam that saw a cabinet minister hand-in-glove with the scamsters.