Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the farmers of Madhya Pradesh on December 18 as part of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government's big outreach to annadatas as the stalemate over the three farm laws enters its fourth week. The issue has also reached the corridors of the Supreme Court.
Around two dozen farmers have lost their lives during these protests, and the protesters are yet to respond favourably to the many efforts made by the BJP and the government.
It is in such a background that Modi decided to intervene. The intervention comes at the right time. The Prime Minister chose an effective means where his skills as a very good communicator is best used to speak to the farmers of MP and the rest of the nation.
Modi strongly defended the farm legislation highlighting its key points and explaining how it would bring a positive change in the lives of the farmers. He assured the farmers that the existing system of Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) and, most importantly, the minimum support price is here to stay.
Modi highlighted the benefits of the laws, assurances on MSP/APMC, pro-farmer schemes of central government and comparing his government’s MSP and procurement with previous ones.
Modi’s speech should come as a reassurance for the farmers; and, ideally, all misgivings should be settled now because who better than the head of the government has addressed their concerns.
The intervention comes at a time when negotiations between farmers and government representatives are on. The farmers couldn’t have asked for more assurances.
Modi, in his chir parichit style, tried to strike an emotional chord with the farmers by appealing with folded hands that his government is ready to discuss all issues with the annadatas and assuage concerns. That Modi himself has intervened shows how important an issue agriculture is for the government, and that no stone will be left unturned in working towards improving the sector.
Nobody can deny that the protests have taken a political turn as well, with the Opposition attempting to take advantage of the situation and attack the government. Modi, in his speech, accused the opposition parties of spreading the ‘biggest lies ever’. He warned the farmers to be wary of such parties and leaders who are instigating them for their political benefits.
He reiterated that these reforms have been talked about for decades now and have even been proposed by some parties in the opposition — by doing so, he exposed the double speak of these political parties.
The APMC reforms have been part of manifesto of both the Congress (general elections) as well as the AAP (Punjab elections). The slugfest between the Congress, the AAP and the Shiromani Akali Dal is part of a larger tussle and political one-upmanship keeping in mind the 2022 Punjab elections.
Modi’s speech has achieved the twin objectives of assuring the protesting farmers about the misconceptions about the farm laws, the fate of the APMCs and MSPs, and of exposing the Opposition doublespeak. Yet again the PM showed why he is among the few leaders across India who can effectively reach out to the people.
Modi’s target audience was not only the farming community protesting, but also the farmers who are supporting the laws as well as the aam aadmi who is not engaged in agriculture activities but stands to benefit from these farm reforms.
It is expected that this speech will help the government consolidate support for the laws among the non-farming community as well as farmers who are not part of the protests, and wean away a section of farmers protesting.Intervention from the highest level should assuage the concerns of the protesting farmers. Now, a breakthrough in talks is expected, and the true potential of the farm reforms will be realised.