Monumental success of Bharat Bandh may prove to be the beginning of a new era of politics in the country
There was a huge response to farmers’ call for an all India strike. Their unity within, and with workers, is clearly changing the contours of politics away from communalism and casteism
Much water has flowed down the Yamuna in one year after September 27, 2020, when the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind had given his assent to Modi govt’s three controversial farm laws. To mark one year of the same, the Bharat Bandh observed today has now clearly showed how the farmers’ agitation which began in Punjab has now spread to almost all parts of the country, influencing national and regional politics, changing the political dimension, and re-establishing unprecedented farmers-workers unity after decades.
The observance of Bharat Bandh on the call of Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) has clearly shown that the BJP’s contention, which the party wanted the people to believe, that the farmers’ agitation does not have support from farmers across the country, was totally false.
The reality is, not only farmers but also workers, and people from all walks of life have supported the agitating farmers. Almost all major non-BJP national and regional political parties have given their support to them and some of them even participated in demonstration. Even some state governments ruled by non-BJP political parties gave their full support.
Not only the 40 farmers unions under the umbrella of agitating SKM, but also around 500 other farmers’ unions in the country participated in the all India strike and demonstrated against the three farm laws.
One of the most important aspects is that a large number of workers’ organizations from non-agriculture sector also participated. As many as 15 major central and regional trade unions took part in the strike and demonstrations apart from many others smaller workers’ unions. The occasion has established an unprecedented unity among farmers and workers for the first time in decades, which is sure to have pan-India political ramifications.
The Bandh had support of varied sections of society, including students’ unions, All India Lawyer’s Union, transport unions, All India Bank Officers’ confederation, banks employees’ unions, insurance employees’ unions and traders unions etc.
Several state governments had lent their support to the all India strike call. Not only the government of Punjab, where the agitation originated after the three farm laws were passed in the Parliament of India in early September, but also Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala in southern India, Chhattisgarh in central India, Odisha and Jharkhand from eastern India supported the Bharat Bandh.
The bus services of the Odisha State Road Transport Corporation remained suspended. Andhra Pradesh government had also suspended the APSRTC bus services. The ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu and LDF in Kerala had called for a total strike in support of the farmers’ agitation.
The Congress supported the protesting farmers across the country. Other major political parties that supported the all India strike included Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, All India Forward Bloc, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Aam Aadmi Party, Samajwadi Party, Telugu Desam Party, Janata Dal (Secular), Bahujan Samaj Party, Nationalist Congress Party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, SAD-Sanyukt, Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Swaraj India etc.
In the poll bound states, especially in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, where the farmers have declared ‘Mission 2022’ to defeat or oust the BJP, all major non-BJP, political parties participated in the strike and the protest demonstrations, which included Congress, SP, BSP, AAP and SAD.
BJP has much on stake in Uttar Pradesh and the farmers’ ‘oust Modi, oust BJP mission’ has already escalated from western Uttar Pradesh to eastern regions. A poll survey had predicted a loss of 62 seats for BJP even it improves 0.4 per cent of votes. The state also sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha. The unity among the farmers has dampened the hope of political parties of exploiting communal or caste fault lines.
In other states, such as in Bihar, the RJD, which has the largest number of seats in the state assembly but is sitting in opposition, too participated in the nationwide strike and demonstrations. With participation of the opposition political parties the Congress and JD(S) in Karnataka, all the four states of southern India, have witnessed protest demonstrations.
Farmers have given the call for an all India strike earlier too, but this time it was quite different: stronger, more aggressive and much wider – geographically, demographically, and politically. Their unity within, and with workers, is changing the contours of politics away from communalism and casteism.
It may prove to be the beginning of a new era of defining politics not only regionally in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh, but also nationally, as we have witnessed in several states during all India strike protests.
Views are personal