Rajat Sharma

Farmers’ protest : a larger political game plan

akbThe ongoing nine-month-long farmers’ protest against the new farm laws shifted from Delhi borders to Jantar Mantar on Thursday, when police allowed 200 farmers to come in buses, amidst tight security, and hold their “Kisan Sansad”. Inside Parliament, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi along with his party MPs, staged protest in front of Gandhi statue. MPs from Shiromani Akali Dal and Aam Aadmi Party also staged protest inside Parliament demanding repeal of the farm laws.

Since, Punjab assembly elections are going to be held early next year, all these three parties are in a race to project themselves as friends of farmers.

The 200 farmers were brought in two buses by Delhi Police to Jantar Mantar amidst tight security. There were several layers of barricading and extra CCTV cameras had been installed. Only those farmers were allowed inside, who were holding identity cards issued by Sanyukta Kisan Morcha. The ‘Kisan Sansad’ will continue daily till August 9. Bhartiya Kisan Union chief Rakesh Tikait said farmers would continue their protests at Delhi border. He claimed, “25 lakh farmers had come to Delhi on January 26 with four lakh tractors, and they are still there. The Centre will have to accept our demand for repeal of laws. There will be no conditional talks anymore.”

The present deadlock is over farmers’ organization demanding outright repeal of farm laws, while the Centre wants the farmer leaders to point out the provisions in laws which need to be removed or altered. There lies the crux of the problem.

At the ‘Kisan Sansad’ that was held at Jantar Mantar, only two km away from Parliament, the 200 farmers selected ‘Speaker’ and ‘Deputy Speaker’ among themselves to run the ‘sansad’. The main issue was diverted when some farmer leaders denounced Minister of State Meenakshi Lekhi for her remark ‘mawaali’ (hooligans) that she had used for farmers. While addressing a press conference in BJP office, Lekhi had said, “You (media) are calling them farmers. They are mawaalis.” She made this remark, when some mediapersons told her about an incident at Jantar Mantar, where a pro-farmer freelance journalist attacked a cameraperson of a news channel and abused a female journalist.

Later, on Twitter, Meenakshi Lekhi withdrew her remark by posting: “My statement has been misrepresented. Nonetheless, if my contents that are being linked with farmers have hurt anyone, then I take my words back.”

By withdrawing her remark, Meenakshi Lekhi did the right thing. I would prefer both sides to maintain decorum and refrain from using such abuses like ‘mawaali’ or ‘jaanvar’ . The problem with farmer leaders is that they have made the repeal of the new farm laws an issue of prestige. These leaders feel that if the three laws are not repealed, they will have no face to show to their supporters. The Centre’s stand is that since these three laws were passed by both Houses of Parliament, they cannot be repealed because of street protests. If such a precedent is set, there will be street protests against other laws too, in a big country like India. Both the farmer leaders and the government are unwilling to budge from their respective stands.

Secondly, critics of Modi, whether in political parties or outside, will never want the confrontation between farmers and the Centre to end. Those who failed to dislodge Modi from power through ballot, are now using the shoulders of farmers to train their guns at him. Their end game is that if farmers start opposing the government, it would be easy to corner Modi. Overall, it seems to be part of a larger political game plan.

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