Bharatiya Janata Party General Secretary Dushyant Gautam on Saturday alleged that the Congress wanted to convert peaceful farmer protests into “bloodshed” as he accused the Punjab government of orchestrating an attack on saffron workers in the state, reported PTI.

“If there is any bloodshed or loss [of life] in the coming days, then the Congress and the left parties will be responsible,” Gautam told a press conference. The BJP leader claimed that Congress’ Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu had himself said in a statement that the ongoing farmers’ agitation against the new agricultural laws will not end, “and to achieve our objective we can even pile up bodies, shed blood and go to any extent”.

Gautam added that his party workers were attacked in some parts of Punjab on the day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi engaged with farmers and addressed them.

A group of farmers had on Friday allegedly ransacked the venue of an event organised by the BJP to mark the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at Bathinda in Punjab, the police said. At least five party workers were injured.

A group of people was listening to Modi’s speech at the venue when some men, who the police claim were farmers, arrived there, and started to break chairs and vandalise property. The farmers, however, denied responsibility for the attack, claiming certain “anti-social elements” and not peasants, were behind it.

Gautam blamed the Amarinder Singh-led government in Punjab for the incident. He alleged that the Congress with the help of the local police, attacked BJP workers with iron road batons. “Due to this, many suffered serious injuries,” he said, adding that the state police acted as the “Congress Police”. “Nobody was stopped, the tent at the event venue was uprooted and people gathered there were told to get out through the rear gate.”

The BJP leader alleged that a similar attack took place in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region, where his party’s workers were allegedly “dismantled by rivals” – the Opposition. The attackers carried banners of farmer unions, but claimed that BJP’s political rivals, including the Congress in Punjab and the Left in Vidarbha, were behind the incidents, Gautam alleged, adding that the police of Maharashtra, too, did nothing.

“This indicates the support of ruling parties in these states to such acts of arson, he added. “We have seen how top opposition leaders like Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh besides Sharad Pawar of the NCP supported these very reforms once which have been now carried out by the Modi government. They are rattled due to Modi’s rising popularity among farmers.”

Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been camping at Delhi’s borders for over a month, blocking highways in giant demonstrations against the new legislations that they say will pave the way for corporate exploitation. While Modi and his party’s leaders have tried to allay farmers’ concerns about the new laws, some of them have called the farmers “misguided”, alleging they are being motivated by separatists and “anti-national” elements.

Among them is also Gautam, who on November 29, had claimed that the agitation had been hijacked by “anti-nationals” elements. “Slogans of ‘Khalistan Zindabad’, ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ were being raised there,” he had said. “You should think about who is behind these protests.”

Kumaraswamy asks farmers to keep ‘open mind’ about new laws

Meanwhile, former Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy on Saturday urged Modi to end the stalemate between his government and the protestors, but at the same time said that he felt the farmers should keep “an open mind” over the new legislations.

In a series of tweets, Kumaraswamy said, for quite some time there has been a strong public opinion that Indian agricultural sector is caught in a vicious circle, and that it was “very much necessary on our part to be ready for any experiment” if it can bring about welfare of the farm sector. “Hence, I personally feel that farmers should have an open mind towards experimenting with the new legislations,” he wrote. “But there has to be proper coordination between the Centre and the protesters.”

The Janata Dal (Secular) leader added that Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s recent statements about the legislations have “instilled a new hope” in farmers. “He [Singh] has appealed to farmers to allow an experimental implementation of the new farm legislations,” Kumaraswamy said. “He has also assured farmers of withdrawing the legislation if they create any problems. I think farmers too should give a thought in this regard.”

The politician also asked the prime minister to look after India’s international image and ensure that the country’s reputation is not “dented by the new farm legislations as well as the protests against them”. But at the same time, farmers too should not suffer any inconvenience, Kumaraswamy said.

“Instead of the approach of sending an indirect message to protesting farmers through its programmes, the Centre should hold a decisive meeting under the leadership of the Prime Minister to end the farmers struggle,” he said. “This is inevitable in the interest of protecting the country’s dignity. Of course, I am sure that Mr Modi will act very cautiously when it comes to the country’s dignity. Let the problem be solved at the earliest.”

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