- Congress, DMK, TMC, NCP, Shiv Sena, RJD, SP and AAP joined the protest
- Reps from Left parties, Muslim League and National Conference joined too
- Protest to underline support for farmers agitating against farm laws
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and leaders from 14 opposition parties staged a joint protest at Delhi's Jantar Mantar on Friday to underline support for farmers agitating against the centre's farm laws.
Visuals from news agency ANI showed Mr Gandhi and the other leaders standing in a tight-knit group (they were all wearing face masks, in line with Covid protocols) and shouting slogans against the government. At one point Mr Gandhi was holding a poster that said: 'Save Farmers, Save India'.
According to news agency PTI, apart from the Congress, the DMK, the Trinamool, the NCP, the Shiv Sena, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Samajwadi Party and Delhi's ruling AAP were at the protest, as were reps from the Left (CPM and CPI), the Muslim League, and the National Conference.
Farmers protesting the central laws have been holding a 'kisan sansad', or 'farmers' parliament' during the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament to draw attention to their demands.
Today, with the opposition leaders looking on, the 'farmers' parliament' proposed a 'no confidence' motion against the Modi government for its handling of their protest against its laws.
Protests against the farm laws - which have been rumbling on for several months now, and made headlines last year, after clashes between farmers and police led to military-style blockades at the borders of the national capital - have been widespread and taken on strong political overtones, with the Congress-led opposition relentless in attacking the government on this issue.
Last week the 'farmers' parliament' 'discussed' one of the three laws - the Farmer (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 - found it to be "unconstitutional and pro-corporates", and passed a resolution demanding its repeal.
Days before that - in a pointed swipe at the government - the farmers appointed a faux Agriculture Minister who 'quit' after 'failing' to answer questions about the farm laws.
The 'Agriculture Minister' claimed he "adopted the strategy of ignoring it and slowly diverting the attention of the Parliament towards other matters..." in an effort to discredit the farmers.
Last Monday Mr Gandhi drove a tractor to Parliament to highlight the farmers' issues; he later told ANI: "I've brought the farmers' message to Parliament. They (Government) are suppressing voices of farmers and not letting a discussion take place... they'll have to repeal these black laws."
Across the country tens of thousands of farmers have been protesting since November last year, seeking repeal of laws they fear will eliminate the MSP (Minimum Support Price) system and leave small and marginal growers at the mercy of big corporations.
The government, however, has insisted the laws are beneficial and has refused to roll them back. It has, though, offered to discuss them "point wise" and make some modifications.
Several rounds of talks between have failed to break the deadlock between the two sides.
Opposition protests over the farm laws have also led to chaos and repeated adjournments in this session of Parliament, inviting strong criticism from Prime Minister Modi, who has twice now accused the Congress of deliberately stalling the functioning of both House.
With input from ANI, PTI