While the farm union leaders went to Bengal before the assembly polls, they are now leaving no stone unturned to dent the BJP's prospects in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
It has been 10 months since the farm union leaders along with thousands of supporters started camping at Delhi borders in protest against the Centre’s three farm laws. After a dozen rounds of talks – the last round held on January 22 – the logjam continues. Since then, there have been no meetings between the government and the agri leaders. In fact, the panel set up by the Supreme Court of India had also submitted its report but the report has not been made public and the Supreme Court hasn’t heard the case since it put the law on hold by it in January this year. However, farmers have continued to protest at different platforms and places with one more motive besides repealing the farm laws, i.e. to defeat the BJP. While the farm union leaders went to Bengal before the assembly polls, they are now leaving no stone unturned to dent the BJP’s prospects in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Be it the tractor rally or Kisan mahapanchayat, the protestors’ participation has been phenomenal in terms of numbers. But the question is whether they will be able to punish the ruling party in two crucial polls – Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand?
“It’s tough to say, what and how much will be the impact (of the farmers’ agitation on election). Farmers have decided that they will try to exercise their electoral power. After the Mahapanchayat in Muzaffarnagar, I think they are holding about 17-18 more Mahapanchayats in the state. Then they have district committees formed to educate the farmers about whom to vote or where they need to stand for the issues. Let’s see how it fares against the polarisation going on in the country,” said Devinder Sharma, author and agri activist who has been following the developments closely.
When farmer leader and politician Yogendra Yadav was asked whether their agitation will have any impact on elections in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, he said he would like it to have an impact.
“I would like it to have an effect. I would like to believe that in Bengal we did have an effect….we made probably 1 degree or 2 degrees of a difference there and if we make even 3 degrees of difference in Uttar Pradesh, that’s even better….We will make a difference and hopefully, the difference would be important enough for the BJP to realise what is the cost of being an anti-farmer. The only language they understand is votes and elections, and if we do not go and teach them a lesson in that term, we would be utterly foolish. Why would we not do that?” said Yadav.
But as the elections approach, the BJP is trying to woo the farmers by making the Kisan Samman Nidhi a poll plank. However, Sharma claimed that the scheme is not going to make a big difference in elections.
“Given my experience from all over the world, I learnt that agriculture cannot survive without giving direct income support….However, Rs 6000 annually means Rs 500 per month. Then what is there to celebrate about it….When you gave Rs 1.5 lakh crore to the corporates, then you did not boast about it….We think that there is no value of a farmer…It (Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme) is a tectonic shift as we moved from price policy to income policy. But this doesn’t mean that Rs 500 is good enough for the farmers. What big difference will it make? I don’t think there is going to be any benefit (electoral) of it. These are just to cover up and give an impression that the government is doing so much for the farmers.”
Notably, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced in September 2019 to reduce the corporate tax rate to 22 per cent from 30 per cent that is costing the exchequer Rs 1.45 lakh crore every year.
Sharma also highlighted the situational assessment survey which stated that farmers’ average daily income is Rs 27. “This was the government’s survey, not mine. No one is talking about it. It should have caused outrage but everyone seems to be comfortable with it. No one expressed concern that a farmer’s daily income is just Rs 27…..Isn’t PLI a subsidy? Nobody wants to call it a subsidy, ” he said.
However, the BJP is confident of retaining the states and has pinned its hope on welfare measures as well as on the work done by the Yogi and Modi governments.
Kapil Dev Agarwal, who is a BJP MLA from Muzaffarnagar and serving as MoS (Independent Charge) in the Yogi Adityanath cabinet, termed the farmers’ protest as a purely political one. Notably, Muzaffarnagar is one of the epicentres of farmers’ agitation.
“They (farm leaders) are openly saying that they will do this or that….This (farmers protest) has become a political agenda for some people. This is not a farmers’ protest but a political protest. This is clearly a political agenda of political people,” claimed the minister.
He said that people are intelligent and will vote for the BJP in the polls. “As will be the circumstances, people are intelligent and capable, when it will be voting time, when it will be about problems of the state or the country, when people raising ‘Taliban Zindabad’ slogans will come out in open, then people will vote for the BJP because Modi ji and Yogi ji have worked for poor people’s welfare, for the development of the country, for farmers by giving them Kisan Samman Nidhi and also they have worked to stop terrorism and Gunda raj. I think people understand that Modi ji and Yogi ji have worked for every section of society and have worked honestly. However, some people have their agendas and are conspiring to defame them (Modi and Yogi). People are aware of this and will vote for the BJP in polls,” he claimed.
With Bharatiya Kisan Union chief Rakesh Tikait announcing that the agitation will continue till the farm laws are withdrawn, and the farm unions working on a strategy to keep the protest alive and kicking despite odds, the BJP need to come out better prepared if it wants to retain Uttar Pradesh and the Uttarakhand.