Farmers missing a strong opposition leader who could make the government feel the heat.


New Delhi: With the farmers’ strength on the borders swelling again after Rakesh Tikait’s emotional appeal, the government is gearing up to ensure that over two-month long agitation of the farming community comes to an end at the earliest. The government is now focused on this goal, keeping in view the Assembly elections of Uttar Pradesh early next year.

What is worrying the ruling BJP is the indication of growing resentment among the farmers of western UP as well. The strategists believe that if this was not nipped in the bud, it will assume an alarming proportion by the time the state goes to polls. The ruling BJP’s priority is to see that the agitation does not affect its poll prospects adversely in UP where it does not see any challenge as of now.

What is, however, giving the saffron outfit a sense of solace is the “weak” opposition. Even protesting farmers are missing a strong leader in the opposition who could make the government feel the heat of what is going on against the three farm laws. With the Opposition being divided, there is a greater possibility of the farmers’ protest ending without any concrete success. There is also doubt about whether Tikait brothers will be able to continue the agitation much longer. The Red Fort incident on 26 January has already added to the problems of farmers and their leader Rakesh Tikait, with the government having gained the upper hand. Secondly, the Tikait brothers have had political proclivity, which may go to the advantage of the government.

Moreover, Punjab appears to be distancing itself from the agitation, as was indicated by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s statement that came after the Red Fort incident. He had said that what happened at Red Fort dented the credibility of the farmers’ agitation.

However, the Congress is trying to strengthen the agitation from Haryana. Political attacks on the Central government are being mounted from Rajasthan as well. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is leading from the front in Rajasthan, launching verbal attacks against the Central government.

What may blunt the attack is the fact that after Punjab’s lackluster show, farmers only from Haryana and Western UP remain in the protest. Sources believe that the government will be able to control Tikait, although he is trying hard to give a fresh lease of life to the agitation. The Opposition is trying to look united in Parliament, but it is actually divided outside. What is also believed is that a faction of UP BJP, which is said to be unhappy with the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, is covertly supporting the agitation.

Sources say that the government may ask farmers to end agitation under the prevailing situation following the blast near Israeli embassy on Friday. Sources told The Sunday Guardian that the government has initiated efforts to convince the farmers of the urgent need to withdraw the protest immediately.

That the farmers’ anger can result in electoral and political loss to the BJP in UP continues to be a cause of worry for the saffron party strategists. However, they are banking on the weak opposition, with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi appearing to be unsuccessful in strengthening the party. More than 20 parties in Opposition did boycott the President’s address on the opening day of the Budget Session over the farmers’ issue. But all they looked divided out of Parliament.

In addition to this, the farmers’ issues do not appear to be creating any impact in the five states which are going to polls after three months. The Opposition parties are pitched against one another in these states. For instance, Left and Congress are in direct contest with each other in Kerala. Congress and Left are fighting against TMC in West Bengal. The similar situation can be seen in Assam, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. But farmers’ protest may have its bearing on polls in UP, Uttarakhand and Punjab. These three states will go to polls early next year. This is the reason why BJP is keen to end the farmers’ protest as soon as possible. The party does not want the farmers’ protest, which is confined in Western part of UP for now, to spread in the entire state.