Farmers protest presents an opportunity for Opposition
Farmers are already on the streets in a good part of the heartland. If youth and lower middle class too join anti-BJP movement, it may damage the BJP prospects in the upcoming state assembly elections
An organized campaign is going on to create the impression that nearly the three months old farmers’ dharnas at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders have begun to lose steam. A section of electronic and social media, after failing to vilify the movement as Khalistani, is now creating the impression as if the kisan movement is doomed. But the ground reality is, in fact, much more different than painted by a section of media.
It is true that crowd sat the sit-in sites have thinned but it is a conscious decision that the union leaders have collectively taken, advising farmers to keep coming to and going back to their places from Delhi borders. It is the peak sugarcane season in western Uttar Pradesh and farmers are also preparing to harvest the wheat few weeks from now. So, the farmers’ presence in their fields is necessary at this crucial time.
Farmers union leaders have, therefore, advised their followers to keep coming and going from the sites of the agitation. It does not mean that the agitation is losing momentum or farmers are listening to the Modi government’s advice to accept the three contentious laws that brought the farmers onto the streets.
Instead, the anti-farm laws agitation has gathered fresh momentum in the recent weeks. The leaders have decided to both deepen and broaden the movement and go on an offensive that may electorally harm the ruling BJP in various states. The new strategy is to take the movement deep into villages and towns and generate an anti-BJP wave that could damage the ruling party in times of elections.
Therefore, the focus is now on mahapanchayats in various parts of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. The game plan is paying dividends as is evident from Punjab municipal election results which were a clean wipe out for the BJP. The farmer leaders’ next target is to teach a lesson to the BJP in UP panchayat elections likely to be held in April-May. There are reports that farmers have also started agitating in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh urban areas. They have plans to hold massive rallies in various state capitals too.
The movement is no longer an agitation only to force the government to annul the three contentious laws. It is surely but steadily taking the shape of an anti-government mass movement like the JP movement in its early days when it was confined to Bihar and Gujarat in the early 1970s. The ongoing farmers agitation is so far largely limited to Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. But it does have the appeal in states like Rajasthan, Maharashtra and even Tamil Nadu.
The movement has resonance in all those parts of the country wherever farming community lives in big numbers. Besides, the timing of the movement suits the agitating farmers. Deepening economic crisis with largescale unemployment in the wake of unimaginative lockdown in the country have left many more segments of the society restless. Unemployed youth and a good section of restless lower middle class worried with the rising petrol and diesel prices may alsojoin the agitation if the crisis persists.
It was the youth and the small town lower middle classes which had initially propelled the JP movement in Bihar and Gujarat. Almost the same sections of Indian society are now feeling disenchanted with the Modi government. Farmers are already on the streets in a good part of the heartland. If the youth and lower middle class too join the anti-BJP movement, it may damage the BJP prospects in the upcoming state assembly elections. It is, therefore, time for the opposition parties to put their act together and unitedly go to the people and convert the on-going movement into a mass movement like JP did in the 1970s.