On Friday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that farmers’ demonstrations against three laws enacted by his government were politically motivated, as he promoted the success of last year’s agricultural scheme.
For over a month, thousands of farmers from many Indian states have been camped on the outskirts of New Delhi, blocking highways to demand that Modi’s government revoke the farm laws they claim endanger their livelihoods passed in September.
But on Friday, Modi’s interactive public address was not based on the laws under dispute.
Instead, he talked to seven farmers from different states via video conferencing, asking them how they benefited from ‘PM Kisan’, a cash transfer scheme introduced by his government in February 2019, through which farmers earn minimum income support.
On Friday, the farmers with whom Modi spoke hailed his plan, but none were among the thousands who protested.
Modi consistently claimed that “some people” circulated lies and misconceptions about the woes of farmers, and denied the demonstrations as inspired by political enemies.
What did they do while they were in power, all these people protesting in favour of farmers? “Referring to opposition leaders, he added.
“Those with political motives […] are firing pistols from the shoulders of the farmers.”
Modi also said he was open to discussions with farmers.
“I ask even those who oppose me today that my administration is ready to speak to them on farmers’ issues… I urge our farmers not to be misled by anyone.”
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At least six rounds of talks on new regulations between Modi’s government and farmers’ representatives have stalled.
Modi also used his speech to dig his political opponents, especially the fiery chief of West Bengal’s eastern state, Mamata Banerjee, ahead of the 2021 legislative assembly elections in the state.
Modi said that Banerjee’s government did not encourage his federal scheme to help the farmers in his province.