Rakesh Tikait: No, I will not contest in the election, I will fight on the street
700 farmers lost their lives during the struggle. They have seen how the Government and the police treated them. Now that laws have been repealed, will they now forget everything, questions Tikait
The Shaheed Kalash Yatra of the Lakhimpur Kheri victims, which began from Pune on October 27, passed through 30 districts of Maharashtra before reaching Mumbai on November 27. The urns containing the ashes were ceremonially presented at the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji, Chaitya Bhoomi of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, memorial to Shaheed Babu Genu and before the statue of Mahatma Gandhi on November 27. The ashes were then immersed in the Arabian sea. Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait, a household name thanks to the farmers’ protests, was in Mumbai on the occasion and took time off to scotch rumours that he would be contesting elections.
Dwelling on the repeal of the farm laws, he said, ‘We have seen how one wrong policy can damage Agriculture which still provides livelihood to a majority of Indians in rural India and employs 52% of the labour. Farmers, he asserted, had won only half the battle but many more battles and indeed the war remained to be won. He would ‘fight’, not elections but on the streets, he added with a flourish. Excerpts from his conversation with Santoshee Gulabkali Mishra in Mumbai:
How do you look at the repeal of the three farm laws? Do you believe it was done with an eye to the poll-bound states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab?
I am happy that Modi ji announced the repeal of the laws. Farmers opposed them from the beginning, when ordinances were promulgated in June last year. In November last year farmers set off for Delhi but they were not allowed to enter the nation’s capital. Police tried to stop them on the way. Roads were dug up and obstacles were placed during the ‘Dilli Chalo’ march by farmers. Since November 26, 2020 farmers have been camping at the gates of Delhi.
It took the Prime Minister one year to realise that farmers would not give up. It is therefore a victory of farmers, who are not fools. Seven hundred farmers have lost their lives during the struggle. They have seen how the Government and the police treated them. Now that laws have been repealed, will they now forget everything? We are happy that the laws have been repealed. But farmers do not trust this Government or the Prime Minister. We are waiting for the Parliament to repeal them (this interview was taken in Mumbai last week before the winter session of Parliament) first.
How do you see Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of India?
He is dhokhebaaz (deceiver). He promised so many things before becoming prime minister. But he has gone back on many such promises made by him and I don’t have to list them. He deceived Indians who trusted him.
Do you plan to contest elections from UP?
We have just won half the battle. The longer battle remains. There are multiple issues like extending and legalizing the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for dairy farmers, sugarcane farmers and others, a scientific method to fix production cost, farm loans and waivers, subsidy, electricity, water-supply to farms and so on. Our fight on these issues will continue.
No, I will not contest elections. I will not contest elections against Modi in constituencies like Meerut or Varanasi. My constituency is much bigger...I will fight on the streets till farmers are given their rights and the government chalks out concrete plans for their benefit.
Agriculture is a state subject. What are your expectations from states?
Agriculture policies are decided by the Union government and that is why we are demanding that the government should draft a law to guarantee MSP for crops to protect interests of farmers.
Interestingly, Mr. Narendra Modi was a staunch supporter of MSP for farmers when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. He publicly stated then the demand for a nationwide law to guarantee a minimum price. But now he has taken a U-turn. That’s why I call him ‘dhokhebaaz’.
(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday)
Published: 03 Dec 2021, 9:15 PM