Lakhimpur Kheri incident may act as catalyst to knock BJP out of power in UP, and damage its prospects in 2024
The farmers’ agitation is now likely to spread to more areas. So far, it was mainly concentrated in western Uttar Pradesh, but now it has spread to central UP as well
In politics, certain poignant moments give incredible support to the opposition parties and adversely affect the ruling party in a state. The Singur moment for Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa's lavish spending on her adopted son's wedding in 1995 for the DMK and ‘the Belchi moment’ for Indira Gandhi are some examples.
The recent Lakhimpur incident where eight people, including four farmers, were killed is one such moment that has come at a most inconvenient moment for the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, just five months before the Assembly polls. The Supreme Court too has taken suo moto notice of the incident.
The opposition has been supporting the year-long farmers’ movement against the three farm laws passed by Parliament last year. The UP government has come into the firing line because of Yogi’s reluctance to take concrete action against the alleged culprits, including the Union Minister of State Ajay Mishra's son Ashish, the primary accused. One of the four farmers was allegedly shot dead by Mishra’s son. The others were reportedly run over by vehicles of his convoy.
Further, the UP government's decision to detain opposition leaders, including Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi, Satish Mishra of the BSP and Akhilesh Yadav of the S.P. among others has given a talking point to the opposition.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi lashed out at the BJP govt by tweeting, "All the institutions of this country have been hijacked by the RSS-BJP. While no action has been taken against the minister's son, there is a systematic attack on farmers of the country. Opposition leaders are not allowed to even visit Lakhimpur Kheri. Only in a dictatorship, such things happen."
Many other leaders, including West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Tamil Nadu chief minister M.K. Stalin, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Chattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel and others have also criticized the UP government.
The political fallout is likely to be heavy for the BJP if the protests against the Lakhimpur Kheri violence continue until the elections early next year. Opposition parties and the BKU plan to intensify the agitation. Akhilesh Yadav has announced the party's 'victory rath yatra' from October 12. BSP chief Mayawati has directed the party cadre to reach out to the farming community.
Secondly, the Lakhimpur Kheri incident will emerge as a poll issue hurting the BJP, which won a massive mandate in 2017, unless it succeeds in resorting to machinations that help its damage control exercise before the polls.
UP is extremely crucial for the BJP which won a massive mandate in 2017 assembly elections followed by securing 73 seats out of 80 in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The Lakhimpur Kheri incident happened when Yogi was trying to take some ‘pro-farmer’ steps such as withdrawing stubble burning cases and an increase in sugarcane prices. But this incident appears to have washed away the ‘gains’.
Lakhimpur Kheri is the largest district of UP's Terai region with the dominance of the Sikh farmers' community who settled there after migrating from Pakistan. It is 80% rural, with most of the population surviving on sugarcane farming. The district also has a significant population of Brahmins, followed by Muslims and Kurmis among non-Yadav OBCs.
Thirdly, the farmers’ agitation is now likely to spread to more areas. Opposition parties and the BKU plan to intensify the agitation by building a narrative around the Lakhimpur Kheri violence. So far, it was mainly concentrated in western UP, but now it has spread to central UP too.
Views are personal