Stage set for UP polls

Will the controversial land acquisitions in UP prove to be another Nandigram and Singur?

Stage set for UP polls

The Gandhi scion, after his forced exit from these villages at the behest of UP Police, vowed to fight for the farmers at the two-day UPCC convention held in Varanasi on May 18-19. Not only the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) have also jumped in, with the political diatribe reaching a new level accusing Mayawati government of acting like a “property dealer”.

“The government is acquiring lands of the farmers at throwaway prices and the developers sell the same at very high prices making huge profits'', says BJP leader and political analyst Hriday Narain Dixit.

RLD chief Ajit Singh, a Jat leader, who owes his political influence to the farming community in the sugarcane belt of western Uttar Pradesh accused Mayawati of “insatiable greed” and throwing the state to the mercy of corrupt politician-bureaucrat nexus looting the state, with money reaching the BSP supremo.

On the other hand, Mayawati, under attack after the farmers’ protest alleged that the opposition parties are instigating the farmers with a view to derive political mileage ahead of the assembly polls and dubbed Gandhi’s visit to Bhatta and Parsaul as “political drama”. 

The political discourse in the aftermath of May 7 indicates that the violence in these two villages of Greater Noida provided a platform for various political parties to launch their election campaign for the assembly polls scheduled to be held next year in the state.

Noted sociologist and political analyst Dipankar Gupta says that in Bhatta and Parsaul, Rahul Gandhi wanted to do what Mamata Banerjee did in Singur and Nandigram of West Bengal, and describes his visit a “well calculated political move amid law and order problem created by the state’s land acquisition policy”.

Echoing the same, Sudha Pai, Professor of Political Science at Jawaharlal Nehru University, describes the visits and statements by leaders of different political parties as “political posturing” ahead of Assembly polls.

“This is mere political posturing with an eye on elections in the state. Politicians will visit these spots and give speeches, but the main question remains whether they get farmers’ problems solved or keep indulging in vote bank politics,” said Sudha Pai.

Violent protests continue

Farmers’ protest claiming lives continue even after Uttar Pradesh government formulated new land acquisition policy in 2010 and claimed it was better than that of the Centre and many other states. The state has witnessed several clashes between the cops and farmers over the issue, especially in the fertile region close to the national capital and as many as 15 people, including four cops and eleven farmers, have lost their lives in the past four years.

In the past, in 2008, farmers’ protest began in Ghori Bachera, a village near Noida, demanding higher compensation. After the protest got violent, the government agreed to pay better compensation to farmers than was offered to them earlier.

Later, in July 2010 Kansera, Zikarpur, Kripalpur, Jahangarh and Tappal villages in Aligarh began an agitation. By September 2010, following violent protests, the government raised the compensation rates. However, farmers’ protests continued and this led the UP government to announce a new land acquisition policy, which provided that there would be no forced acquisition of lands. It also provided for fixing the price of the land through a negotiated settlement between the land owners and the government.

Mayawati government expected that the raging controversy over land acquisitions in the state would stop after the new policy, but it didn’t, as was evident from the Bhatta-Parsaul violence.

Now, as the farm politics is heating up in Uttar Pradesh, Rahul Gandhi has promised to get the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill passed in the monsoon session of Parliament beginning mid-July. The Bill is intended to lay the new ground rules to acquire land for industrial and other purposes and avert flare ups like the in Greater Noida.

Notably, Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill was shelved in 2009 due to strong opposition by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who rode on farmers’ agitation in Singur and Nandigram to topple 34-year-old Left government in West Bengal. The Bill of 2007 was passed by the Lok Sabha. But it could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha and eventually lapsed with the dissolution of the 14th Lok Sabha.

Social historians believe that one-day protests, sipping tea with farmers are not going to help farmers or the politicians. A national consensus on the land acquisition policy to acquire land for the development projects is necessary. And, to garner the support of farmers for their political motives, the fight will have to go beyond the territorial boundaries of Uttar Pradesh and reach as far as Vidarbha region of Congress-ruled Maharashtra, where farmers are committing suicide due to agrarian crisis and Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh, where farmers were fired upon.

Inputs: Sanjay Pandey in Lucknow.


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