Deconstructing the Decision

A possible serious fallout on ensuing assembly polls might have resulted in the withdrawal of farm bills
Deconstructing  the Decision
Farmers block railway track as they stage a protest against Farms bills, in Bathinda in 2020 Saturday. File: ANI

Analysts believe that the fear of serious repercussions on the ensuing five assembly elections early next year especially in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, made the government repeal three controversial farm bills.

But Kisan Union leader, Rakesh Tikait has put preconditions for ending the agitation which includes passing the repealing of the farm bills in the parliament and enacting the law on Minimum Support Price (MSP).

Centre had rushed the farm bills in parliament without much discussion which had been strongly protested over by the entire opposition. The centre avoided any type of consultations with key stakeholders or interest groups and averted an attempt of the opposition to force it to refer it to a parliamentary committee.

BJP top leaders are satisfied to term it as a proof of the democratic credentials of the prime minister whereas home minister Amit Shah described Modi as a leader who always puts “Nation First and farmers Foremost”. It may also enhance the chance of revival of alliance with Akalis who had severed the ties with BJP following unbearable pressure of farm agitation, thereby being afraid of hundred percent alienation of the core base in Punjab.

Observers say that Akalis may opt to fight elections alone also as siding with BJP involves the risk; as nothing is certain about the mood of farmers who may not be too excited over their victory after a long struggle. BJP can also accommodate Captain Amrinder Singh who has already announced his intentions to go with it to keep Congress away from the power.

The Opposition has been quick to claim victory but none can predict whether it will politically benefit them. But it is being seen as a big setback to the centre which had shown unnecessary swiftness to rush it through in parliament and left no stone unturned to defend the laws at all levels .

Analysts opine that prime minister, Narender Modi showed flexibility

and accepted the main demand of farmers who were adamant on scrapping of three bills which were seen by them as anti farming community, besides opening the door of exploitation by private players.

The farmers were untiring and determined to continue their struggle despite every possible effort to sabotage the agitation, and it was continuing with renewed ferocity which might have forced the centre to relent.

Future implications

The centre’s decision to withdraw the bills may help Bharatiya Janata Party to dilute the anger of farming community in Uttar Pradesh and revive the hope of retaining power by Yogi Aditya Nath who was being cornered on the mauling of farmers by a vehicle belonging to union minister of state, Ajay Mishra’s son. The deceased belonged to Terai area of UP which is one of the most prosperous regions, and fallout could have been serious in the coming assembly polls.

Second, BJP has been enjoying the fruit of power in Punjab owing to alliance with Akalis who have parted the company owing to fear of alienation after farmers intensified their agitation. Hence it is yet to position itself independently to yearn for power.

Third, Mohan Lal Khattar’s government in Haryana is dependent on Dushyant’s outfit, Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), which has got its influence amongst the farmers who were very upset with his aligning with centre. Hence it was losing its credibility with every passing day. It could have finally led to withdrawal of the support and collapse of the government. Now Khattar’s government will survive and the threat of losing power owing to farmers’ agitation has been eliminated.

Fourth, BJP leaders, ministers, and MLAs were being haunted and attacked in Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh by the agitating farmers which could have made it impossible for them to campaign in the ensuing assembly polls. But now, BJP can launch full throated election campaign and propagate and focus on Modi’s leadership, thereby projecting him as ‘savior’ of the farmers who could have doubled their income had farm laws been implemented. They were aimed at protecting the famers from the fleecing of the adhtiyas (middleman).

Fifth, Prime Minister Modi’s apology and emphasis on being honest to the welfare of farmers, thereby thinking of implementing the farm laws, may become handy to BJP in state polls as it will give them a chance to publicize the generosity of their leader who kept their demand above the prestige of the centre.

National and international image

Experts believe that modi’s image was taking a beating due to prolonged farmers agitation which has already resulted 670 deaths and international newspapers were projecting centre as ‘anti farmers,’besides criticizing it for being ‘adamant’; this might have been unacceptable to prime minister. Barring few dedicated television channels and newspapers, BJP was getting bad publicity and it had become an uphill task to defend and convince the farmers about benefits of the farm bills.

An attempt by some forces to link farmers’ agitation with ‘Khalistanis’ proved counterproductive as Punjabis are known for their immense level of making sacrifices for the integrity and unity of India. Hence even villagers were alienated due to this tactics and anger swelled up against the centre.

Key factors leading to success

Experts believe that farmers’ leaders have been successful in keeping the stir peaceful though several concerted attempts were made to inject violence, and defame it by calling it a sponsored agitation. But Punjabis kept it alive and energized; though at one stage it was losing heat. At this juncture, Uttar Pradesh government was planning a police action to clear the area but the main motivating force in the form of Rakesh Tikait’s tearful appeal to famers did a wonder and famers in large numbers left their homes to join the agitation. A sudden feeling swept across Haryana, and Western UP and farmers reached the site to stand by their leader. On the same analogy, Tikait and his associates thwarted an attempt of some hooligans to provoke the famers by throwing stones at peaceful agitators who remained calm, which averted the chances of eruption of violence that could have weakened the agitation.

A setback to BJP in by polls in some states also contributed to the withdrawal of the farm laws and discussion on the defeat was skipped during the first meeting of the national executive which was an evidence of seriousness of high command to be alert for ensuing assembly polls next year.

The sustained campaign by Manipur Governor, Sataya Pal Mallik also created a negativity and it became difficult to sack him as it could have made him a martyr in the eyes of farmers. The non-resident Punjabis made immense contributions in terms of funds and manpower, besides managing social media to counter some hostile TV channels and newspapers.

Finally, countrymen will heave a sigh of relief as farmers were facing cold nights and patience was running out which could have resulted in violence. Hence centre’s decision to repeal farm laws should be seen in positive light. Now politicians are free to exploit the issue in their own ways, and farmers will also be able to exercise their franchise in ensuing polls, and later also without any fear; this is a good signal for the survival of democracy in the country.

( K.S.Tomar is national columnist and political analyst)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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