Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Jagat Prakash Nadda on Saturday defended the three farm laws enacted in September, saying they will enable farmers to set the prices of their products and choose the buyers even as the legislation has triggered protracted protests.

Speaking at the launch of BJP’s first campaign for farmers in poll-bound West Bengal’s East Burdwan, which is considered the state’s rice bowl, Nadda cited the measures the government has taken over the last six years for the farm sector. “Since the BJP came to power at the Centre [in 2014], Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made a six-fold increase in the central budget for farmers. He implemented the minimum support price [at least 50% more than the weighted average cost of production] recommended by the Swaminathan Committee,” Nadda said

Nadda insisted the three farm laws will make farmers free. “These will enable farmers to set the price of their products and choose the buyer,” Nadda said.

Nadda’s statement came a day after the eighth round of talks between the Centre and farmer unions failed to end the deadlock on Friday. The Centre maintained it would not scrap the three laws and asked farmer unions to wait for the Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue. The farm leaders stuck to the stand that the laws must be repealed and raised placards saying they will “prevail or die”.

Sharp exchanges and tense arguments between the two sides were also reported even as they agreed to meet again on January 15.

Thousands of protesting farmers have encircled Delhi for 45 days, demanding the government scrap the laws.

The Supreme Court is set to take up a bunch of petitions challenging the validity of the laws on Monday. The petitions have argued that the federal government does not have the powers to bring legislation on the agriculture sector because it falls in the domain of states. The farm leaders have said even if the laws were declared constitutionally valid, they would continue to demand their repeal.

Nadda, who also said that Bengal ranks 24th in the country when it comes to procurement price paid to farmers, announced the BJP will hold 40,000 meetings across Bengal before the assembly elections.

Nadda also launched the door-to-door rice collection programme. He visited five homes and collected the rice in a saffron bag slung on his left shoulder.

Nadda, who offered prayers at the temple associated with the 15th-century saint Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, later had lunch at a farmer’s house.

Nadda’s visit to Bengal comes as the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government is planning to hold a special session of the assembly to pass a resolution against the three farm laws.

Nadda said the enthusiasm he has noticed shows that people of West Bengal have made up their mind to welcome the BJP. He added chief minister Mamata Banerjee has now written to the Centre that she wants to implement the Prime Minister Kisan Samman Nidhi programme. “We have been asking her for a long time to do it.”

Nadda accused the TMC leadership of corruption and misappropriating ration the Centre sent in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Smuggling of coal and sand is all that you hear about these days. The Calcutta high court ordered an audit into the expenses made towards relief [after cyclone Amphan]. But the government challenged it in the Supreme Court. Why? Why is Mamata Banerjee so worried?”

TMC Lok Sabha leader Saugata Roy reacted to Nadda’s comments, saying the BJP chief is from Himachal Pradesh and questioned what does he know about Bengal. “Spreading misinformation will not help the BJP. The TMC will return to power with an absolute majority.”

Nadda was scheduled to offer prayers at the Sarbamangala temple in Burdwan, lead a roadshow and visit the BJP district office to address the media and the party’s core committee members.