Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai’s remarks, terming the farmers’ protests around Delhi as ”sponsored,” during his reply in the assembly on Monday over the issue of price rise, saw heated exchanges between the ruling and opposition benches. “It (farmers’ protest) is sponsored by you (Congress) in Delhi. Farmers’ protest happened around Delhi. It did not happen anywhere else in the country because it is sponsored,” Bommai said.
Congress leaders and legislators took strong exception to this, with party state president D.K. Shivakumar even terming the statement as an “insult” to the farmers and demanded that he apologize to them.
Leader of the opposition Siddaramaiah too termed it as the “most irresponsible” remark.
Bommai’s “sponsored protest” comments led to a heated exchange between ruling BJP and opposition Congress legislators, throwing the house into chaos for some time.
The CM, however, stood by his comments, saying the protest by farmers, who claim to be from Punjab and Haryana, was sponsored. “It has a political background, it has your sponsorship. It is for the sake of MSP (Minimum Support Price) politics,” he said.
Alleging that commission agents at the markets were also behind the protest as they are worried by the new farm laws, he asked Congress not to ”mislead” the people of the country.
Countering senior Congress MLA Ramesh Kumar’s query to spell out whether the protest was sponsored by ”foreign hands” and who was behind it, Bommai pointed out that during Indira Gandhi’s tenure in 1972-75, these forces were blamed for every protest in the country, whether it was farmers or labourers. “But we are not saying foreign hands, as foreign agents have already been close to the administration….foreign agents and commission agents who want to control APMCs are sponsoring this protest,” he added.
Rebuking Siddaramaiah for his recent comments, accusing BJP governments in the state and Centre of “criminal loot”, Bommai, while initiating the debate, asked “does this mean governments of all parties in the past that increased prices have indulged in criminal loot?”
In reply, the LoP said the CM, by this statement, has admitted that criminal loot has taken place and pointed out that he had borrowed these words from former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had used it when he was Jana Sangh MP in 1973 and Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister, in protest against the seven paise increase in fuel prices.
To Bommai’s query on why he was in “pain” hearing his reply, Siddaramaiah said “why should I be in pain? Narendra Modi and you should be pained as you people have indulged in criminal loot.”
Continuing his attack on Congress, Bommai said, “During our time there has been 30 per cent rise (in petrol price)…they (Congress or UPA) had raised 60 per cent during their time.”
“If you are upset with the word criminal loot, let us call it Congress loot…there is no issue.”
This irked Congress members and Siddaramaiah raised slogans like “BJP loot”, “BJP is indulging in criminal loot”, “Narendra Modi government is looting the country”.
Bommai, reacting to it said, “what Congress and Siddaramaiah is doing is nothing but scriptures in the devil’s mouth. With what authority are they saying such things to us? What moral right do you have after looting the country for so long?”
Both party members then shouted slogans, accusing each other of looting the country.
Noting that the price rise issue has been discussed several times in the assembly, irrespective of which party was in power or in the opposition, Bommai said rise in prices of petroleum products began in the 1960s-70s and there were various reasons for it.
“India is an importer and consumer of crude oil and not the producer. Eighty-five per cent we import, so price fluctuation in the international market will have its impact on consumer countries like ours,” he said.
Pointing out that during the discussion, opposition MLAs targeted only the Narendra Modi government on the issue of price rise, the CM listed out the petrol price rise from 1973, which varied from 60 to 150 per cent.
“From 2014-2021, the price has risen from about Rs 77 to 100, almost 30 per cent. Whichever party is in power, the prices have consistently risen. So, blaming the current party in power is not right,” he said.
Bommai said out of Rs 36 lakh crore revenue gained during 2014-21 from petroleum products, the Centre has given almost 40 per cent of it to states.
He also said procurement of paddy and wheat has exponentially increased during the NDA rule compared to UPA. Also, MSP for various crops have been increased and the benefits have been transferred to farmers.
The CM also charged the Congress with increasing excise duty over the years.
Stating that monetisation does not mean sale, he hit back at Congress’ opposition to the National Monetisation Pipeline, saying it was also done during UPA rule. He cited the amount of Rs 80,000 crore raised by monetising the Bombay-Pune highway.
Bommai also hit out at Siddaramaiah and the Congress on the issue of sales tax and said they do not have any moral right to question the government as it was they who raised it and did not slash it, despite demands.