Farmers’ protests: BJP rattled by the growing resentment against it in northern states
With the farmers’ movement acquiring new political dynamics and gaining a new social orientation in the wake of holding of Khap and Mahapanchayats, the BJP is scared of its future
Usually the results of the panchayat and municipal elections do not reflect the real mood of the people. But the miserable defeat of the BJP, or rather absolute rout, in the municipal elections in Punjab and incidents of villagers chasing out and boycotting BJP leaders in Haryana, has unnerved the national leadership of the BJP about the future of the party in the northern Indian states.
The party leadership has embarked on the path to create divisions on caste line amongst the farmers. Annihilation of the communal divide would prove to be detrimental to the electoral interests of the BJP. Sanjeev Balyan, an influential Jat leader who is credited with engineering communal feud and hatred in 2013, has been again deployed to break farmers’ unity.
The people are being reminded that Rakesh and elder brother Naresh Tikait had supported Balyan before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. It is purely a maligning mechanism as the two brothers have emerged as the rebel images of the movement.
The farmers’ movement has brought the Muslims and Jats closer and eliminated the element of distrust. They have been fighting together. The September 2013 communal violence which had shredded the Jat-Muslim brotherhood and subsequently helped the BJP win the assembly elections in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in 2017 and also register massive victory in the two Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and 2019, is now a forgotten nightmare.
Muzaffarnagar which has been witness to a horrific pogrom, has emerged as the epicentre of the farm protests in Uttar Pradesh, imbibing the new face of the cultural bond and brotherhood.
The BJP leaders nurse the view that the newfound Jat-Muslim unity must be broken and this has to be achieved through putting maximum thrust on nationalism, Hindutva and splitting the Jat solidarity. The primary task of Balyan is to brief the BJP workers and the people from Dalit section and backward castes about the ‘benefits’ of the three farm laws and how they could be defended before the angry farmers and the politically-powerful Jat community.
With the farmers’ movement acquiring new political dynamics and gaining a new social orientation in the wake of holding of Khap and Mahapanchayats, the BJP is scared of its future. It is worth mentioning that the movement was launched eight months back by the farmers from Punjab. But it was after Jats from Rajasthan joined the movement that it acquired a sustainability and new militant face. The leaders had come to realise that unless the Jats and Muslims of UP joined the movement, it would a tough task to make the movement survive.
The tractor parade of January 26 was the turning point in the trajectory of the movement. The Modi government realised the potential and outreach of the movement on that day. That was the reason that it conspired to create confusion and malign it. It is also worth mentioning that after January 26, at least 25 Khap and Mahapanchayats have been held in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and UP.
In fact, the mischievous role of the Modi government on January 26 also made the farmer leaders aware of the onslaught the BJP was contemplating against them. Holding of the Khap meetings and Mahapanchayats by the farmer leaders has been a strategy to bring together Jats and other communities. It is said that Dalits have antagonistic relations with Jats and may eventually stay away from the movement. However, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) leaders have managed to bridge the gap.
Apprehensions were also expressed that the Jat-led farmers’ agitation in Haryana could help the BJP make deeper inroads into the 20 percent Dalit vote in the state, many of whom are agricultural labourers and are on the receiving end of rural power relations. The Morcha leaders view Modi projecting the farmers' agitation as essentially one of rich landowners who exploit the poor in rural India, as an attempt to widen the schism between Jats and Dalits.
In this backdrop, the entry of political parties like the Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Congress in the movement and their organizing Mahapanchayats would augur well for the movement. These meetings are drawing huge crowds.
Significantly, the SKM leaders had made it clear that the voters in Haryana must not vote for the party which has been opposed to their movement.
The fact of the matter is that panchayats keep farmers’ protest going. In this backdrop, the observation of Rakesh Tikait ought to be taken seriously; “The next target is to bring together 40 lakh tractors. We will go to every village of the country. Our manch and panch shall remain at Singhu and neither shall break. Our movement is not limited to Delhi. Farmers are aiming to solve issues, not to bring about political change.”
Tikait also asserted; "Who says Samyukta Kisan Morcha will split? Neither our joint stage will divide nor the Morcha will split. Our stage will be here at Singhu and its leaders will be our heads".
The agitation will expand with holding of big meetings across the country and associating 40 lakh tractors with it, he said, adding the farmer leaders will tour different states to spread the movement.
To intensify the stir, protesting farmers have announced a series of events from February 23. The Morcha will observe February 23 as ‘Pagadi Sambhal Diwas’ and February 24 as ‘Daman Virodhi Diwas’, essentially to underline that farmers must be respected and no “repressive measures” should be taken against them. The Morcha said February 26 will be observed as ‘Yuva Kisan Diwas’ (youth farmers day) and February 27 as ‘Mazdoor Kisan Ekta Diwas’ (farmer-labourer unity day).
Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has reportedly told party leaders to not be defensive but go out and convince the farmers that the protests were being masterminded by forces conspiring against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the country.
(Views expressed are personal and not that of National Herald)