West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s assurance to farmer leaders of her support to their agitation against the Centre’s new agricultural reforms has come as a fillip for the protestors.
“The chief minister said she will continue to support our movement. We thank her for her assurance,” said Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait.
On Wednesday, Tikait led a delegation of farmer leaders to meet Banerjee in Kolkata. They sought her support for their stir seeking complete repeal of the Centre’s recent agriculture laws. The protesting farmers have also been demanding a new legislation to safeguard the minimum support price (MSP) mechanism for farm produce.
“The farmers requested me to speak to chief ministers of all Opposition-ruled states and organise a virtual meeting with the protesters. Once the Covid situation stabilises, I’ve agreed to try and write a jointly signed letter to the Centre over the issue,” said Banerjee after the meeting. “Chief ministers of non-BJP states can come together in support of this movement. The farmer leaders intend to form a platform. I will be there,” she added.
Eleven rounds of talks between the farmers and the Centre have been held till January this year. The talks were halted after the farmers’ Republic Day tractor rally turned violent in Delhi.
Talking about the meet with Banerjee, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) general secretary Hannan Mollah said, “This interaction had nothing to do with the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM). It was in our individual capacity.”
“The SKM comprises 500 farmers’ organisations and we are united over an issue-based struggle. However, there may be individual processes and methods to meet the goal,” he added.
The farmers also urged Banerjee to introduce MSP for fruits, vegetables and milk products in West Bengal as a model for the rest of the country.
Banerjee consolidated her political fortune following her fight against acquisition of land by the then Left Front government at Singur and Nandigram to set up a small car factory and chemical hub, respectively.
During the current farmers’ protests, she sent senior TMC leaders to Delhi to show solidarity with the farmers. Further, the West Bengal Assembly passed a resolution against the Centre’s three farm laws.
Her support for the agitation– seen mainly to represent the farming community from north India, is being viewed as a potential morale booster.