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Home >Opinion >Views >Farmers’ stir makes big political splash, but is the movement over?

The agitation of farmers at the three borders of Delhi is entering its fourth month. A month has passed since their unsuccessful dialogue with the government. How long will this deadlock last?

Is this why the farmers wanted to observe ‘Bharat Bandh’ and ‘Rail Roko Andolan’ to put pressure on Delhi for resuming the dialogue? However, neither was the ‘Bharat Bandh’ successful at an all-India level nor the ‘Rail Roko’ efforts. Has it not proved once again that this agitation is only by the farmers of a few north Indian states? It is true that similar anger can be found among the sons of the soil of Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Maharashtra, but they have not yet taken to the streets. On the other hand, strength has also reduced at the Ghazipur, Singhu and Tikri borders. Does it mean that this three-month-old non-violent and unique movement is losing its steam? It would be far too early to reach this conclusion.

The main reason for saying this is that at the mahapanchayats being convened in different areas of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Haryana, the crowd is increasing. Political leaders of different parties are now also going there to grace the occasion. Now can it be assumed that even though this battle of the farmers is not breaking any new ground in other states, at the same time the agitation is spreading and strengthening in the remaining parts of the six states?

Farmers’ leaders claim that due to the wedding season and busy schedule of Rabi crop in the fields the numbers have been decreased at the sit-in sites on the three borders of Delhi. Now they are doing it by turn, one batch of agitators leaves, while the other takes its place. They claim that they are ready for a long battle. Rakesh Tikait even says that farmers all over the country are dissatisfied with their plight and there are big farmer rallies in other states, I am also getting an opportunity to participate in these. Is it possible that the dharna like Delhi will now be seen in some other states too?

Only the future will answer this question, but the results of the municipal elections in Punjab have given a new twist to the entire issue. On Wednesday, the Congress won an unprecedented victory and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which broke away from the Akalis at the beginning of this year, finished fourth. To understand how terrible this victory is, let us look at these figures. Out of a total of 2,165 wards of the municipal council and Municipal Corporation, 1,484 won by Congress, 294 by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), 57 by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and BJP won only 47. The Congress won 68.5% of the wards, while the SAD won 13.5%, AAP 2.6% and the BJP 2.1%. While the Congress succeeded in capturing Bathinda Municipal Corporation after 53 years, whereas the BJP lost even its strongholds. These results also force the AAP to introspect.

Have the civic elections started writing the script for the next year’s assembly elections? It is too early to say so. The Congress emerged victorious here in 2017, but the results of the 2015 civic elections were mostly in favour of the SAD-BJP alliance. Politics is a game of odds and chances, no one knows when the wind may turn! But those who are singing the farewell songs for BJP after these results, let me remind them that in December 2020 elections were held for local bodies in Kerala also, and the Congress-led front was defeated there by the ruling Left Front.

However, there is a lot of difference between Kerala and Punjab. Like north India, there are no peasant agitations and the BJP is nowhere in the fight. Rajasthan is another example of the political impact of farmer agitation. The Congress won the civic elections there, held last month. Farmers are agitating in a large part of this state too.

The next test of its impact will be in Uttar Pradesh. As per the order of the high court, elections for panchayats in Uttar Pradesh are to be held before 30 April. Assembly elections are also only a few months away. Western UP has become the epicentre of farmer discontent. Rakesh Tikait also belongs to this part of the state and since the time of his late father, there is a long tradition of farmers’ agitation.

On Wednesday, when the election results of local bodies were being declared in Punjab, on the other hand, a meeting of important BJP leaders from western UP was going on in Delhi with Union minister Sanjeev Balyan. It was decided there that the BJP leaders would go to talk to the farmers and other community leaders to explain the benefits of new agricultural laws, but their path is not going to be easy.

While Balyan was meeting these leaders in New Delhi, at a mahapanchayat in Muzaffarnagar of western UP, Naresh Tikait, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, was making a call for socially boycotting the leaders of the party in power. He even told that not to extend them any wedding invitation. It is for sure that the ‘Muzaffarnagar model’ of the BJP, which once paved the way for its thumping victory in 2014, is under threat. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati have also started trying their bets. The AAP is also seeing a possibility for itself in Uttar Pradesh.

Is this the political end of a social movement that once began for some economic reasons?

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal

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