The government must expose the political wolf disguised as a farmer
The death and violence in Lakhimpur show that the peasant movement is now a political movement in its own right. Only politicians blinded by ambition will avoid the violence shown on television screens. Farmers and their goals will now take a back seat to policy ambitions. There will now be several claimants or owners of the movement, but it also means an important turn for the politics and politics of the North.
The objective, the repeal of the three agricultural laws, became irrelevant when the Supreme Court suspended the application of these laws. Now a political movement runs on emotion and narrative, so Lakhimpur is not the end of the conflict. It is in fact the beginning of a political conflict to wrest power from the BJP at the state and central levels. How successful he is will depend on the emotional outrage or violence he is able to generate. All parties, from Congress to the Aam Aadmi Party, are striving to take control of the movement, unaware of the damage they are causing not only to farmers, but also to the Indian economy and to the reforms initiated during the last decade. But then, power hungry politicians rarely worry about the death of the common man on their way to glory.
Farmers have always been tools for political leaders, a consolidated electoral base that political parties have always tried to capture. This does not always work because there is rarely a single problem in bringing the farmers together; therefore, this movement is so attractive to all political parties in the country. The Kisan leaders of the 1960s and 1970s were honest in recognizing their constituents and also working for them. While most of the constituencies are rural in India, it is not as if the farmers’ issues are straightforward and central all the time. The peasant movement is full of opportunist leaders – and as in the past, the peasants will again be used as cannon fodder.
READ ALSO | Shaheen Bagh, Bharat Bandh, Lakhimpur: the right to protest cannot infringe on the right to means of subsistence
A left movement
The left-wing parties have created a fairly strong basic structure based on cadres in the Punjab and the western UP. Opportunist leaders united by their hatred of Narendra Modi’s government are also entering the scene. The left-wing parties that are building the peasant movement on the ground have long found fertile ground in the North. They are unlikely to let him go to Johnny-come-latelies like other opposition parties or even new opportunist leaders.
It means the government is not talking to farmers; it’s having a conversation with leaders of left-wing parties who are not represented in the Legislative Assembly or Parliament. They are not interested in any settlement or agreement. They don’t have any requirements either. The demand to repeal laws is an intransigent position, which is neither defensible nor actionable in law or in negotiation. One way to repeal the three farm laws is to pass another law, which is more forward-looking and renders all three laws null or meaningless.
Until now, the government has distinguished between farmer leaders and political parties, not realizing that all the leaders it was talking about are not farmers but politicians. It is time to shatter this myth and expose these farmers as part of the left parties to which they belong. Another thing that is clear from recent statements is that these leaders do not want a solution, so they are going to make such far-fetched demands that it becomes impossible for the government to meet them. One of them wanted the chief minister of Haryana to resign over the violence in Lakhimpur.
The anti-reform left
Voters in general also need to understand what the agenda of these leftist parties is. Does the support come only from the local Arthiyas or does it also come from across the border? Left parties are ideologically against reforms, even those that benefit consumers. They were against the computerization of railways and banks in the 1980s because it affected their unions.
Their polemics are unclear and their goals unstable, of course the grassroots instability in India will certainly benefit China. If there is a coalition government in the center in which the left parties have a stake, an agrarian political unrest led by the left parties can derail any reforms initiated by the government. What business people fail to realize is that the left is not just against creating a functioning market for farmers. They are against market forces of all kinds, market players of all stripes – privatization is anathema to them. If agricultural laws are replaced with weaker legislation, it will not be a loss just for the BJP or the central government – it will be the start of the reversal of economic reforms.
READ ALSO | Curious case of Rakesh Tikait: from vehement criticism of the BJP for 10 months to “convenience store” in Lakhimpur
As in the past, when Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement led to the rise of the AAP in Delhi. While nothing has changed much in terms of corruption, Anna Hazare himself is back in his village. But a new set of leaders is firmly entrenched in the Delhi government. Likewise, a new set of leftist leaders are rising and they will succeed in establishing a foothold in North India on the backs of the farmers. This will allow them to influence both politics and politics. The death of the farmers and workers of the BJP in Lakhimpur shows that for these left parties, long denied any relevance, identity and support, it is war. In this war, they don’t care about the death of their own soldiers or farmers or the common man. The breath of war has floated from the dying fields of Dantewada to the plains of the Ganges.
Farmer, the ultimate loser
Political opportunists feel a chance to take advantage of the Lakhimpur incident for electoral gains. Their myopic vision will only strengthen the control of the left parties over the farmers. Yogendra Yadav has already stressed the need for political power for farmers. Rakesh Tikait participated in several elections and lost them all. But now Congress, the Samajwadi Party and even the AAP see potential to overlap with the farmers’ movement for immediate gains in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. They will do everything in their power to keep this tragedy and its emotional resonance high until the election. Once the elections are over, the parties will leave the farmers. While the gains are unlikely to be missed by the opportunists, they serve the purpose of a new left-wing political movement that will emerge into the political landscape.
Farmers will derive no benefit from this: their problems are systemic and the three farm laws were a good way to reform the system, especially the mismatch between supply and demand due to public procurement. Whether or not this systemic reform occurs, time will tell. But it’s important to reiterate that this is not a movement of farmers, it is a political movement led and owned by politicians. Therefore, it should be treated as such. Politicians like to form alliances before or after elections to gain power and this will also happen with these left forces. They are ultimately seeking political power, not fixing the farmers’ problem. They don’t even get to the heart of the matter. None of their leaders have ever talked about any solution to the problem, they want an impossible status quo or the resignation of political leaders. How does this solve the central problem of farmers’ income?
Reforms for small farmers are a matter of life and death, but political opportunists clearly want to win at all costs. The government must unmask these political opportunists by exposing their objectives and the negative impact on the country.
The author is CEO of the Center for Innovation in Public Policy. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the position of this publication.