Farmers protest: Oppn unites; BJP claims farmers misled

Politics over farmers' protests picks up: As Opposition unites, BJP alleges farmers being misled

Former NDA ally SAD and ally RLP in Rajasthan have both expressed discontent over farm law amendments

Farmers protest against the newly passed farm bills at Singhu border near Delhi. Credit: Reuters Photo

The ongoing farmer agitation brought a semblance of unity among Opposition parties and has even breached NDA ranks even as the BJP has laid the blame at the doors of Congress accusing it of misleading farmers.

While former NDA ally Shiromani Akali Dal, which walked out of the ruling alliance in September hit out at the government accused it of treating farmers as "enemy of the State", NDA ally Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP), which had contested the 2018 Assembly polls in Rajasthan in alliance with the BJP said the Centre should listen to farmers' issues and withdraw the recently passed farm laws.

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There are also murmurs of protest against another NDA ally Jananyak Janata Party headed by Dushyant Chautala in agrarian state Haryana as the protests continue. Chautala, the great-grandson of farmer leader Devi Lal and grandson of Om Prakash Chautala has roots in the farming community and his party's main support base is among farmland owning Jats. He has already faced a gherao (blockade) of his residence by farmers after the passage of the land bill. The BJP government in Haryana is dependent on the support of JJP after the 2019 Assembly poll threw a hung verdict. Congress has repeatedly attacked the JJP on farmers' issues reminding it of the legacy of farmer politics of Chautala's predecessors.

What can queer the pitch further for JJP is that after clashes broke out at multiple places, Haryana Congress took the issue up with former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda going to the extent of making an appeal of people to extend all possible help like food and accommodation to marching farmers. Hooda also attacked the BJP-JJP government in Haryana over the use of water cannons and tear gas against the protesting farmers.

RLP leader Hanuman Beniwal, who is a Lok Sabha MP from Nagaur tweeted that the central government needs to take back the agricultural bills after hearing the issues of farmers coming to Delhi to protest against the agricultural bills. He also said that the governments of nearby states including Haryana should not adopt any oppressive policy against farmers and threatened that if the police and governments adopted an oppressive policy against farmers, the RLP will hold demonstrations across the country, including in Rajasthan, in favour of farmers.

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Akali Dal has condemned the use of force to stop them from marching towards Delhi saying the Modi government should not adopt a policy of confrontation with farmers. Last week the Centre withdrew Z+ security cover for SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia after which the former NDA ally cried political vendetta over the party quitting the ruling alliance.

On the Opposition front, the issue has evoked strong reactions from the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi. Delhi Government has rejected the request of Delhi Police seeking to convert nine stadiums into temporary prisons, in view of farmers' protest and argued that the farmers' agitation is non-violent. "It is the right of every individual to protest in a non-violent manner. They cannot be put in jail for that. Hence Delhi government rejects this application of Delhi police to turn the stadium into jail."

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal rued that instead of Centre withdrawing the "anti-farmer bills", water cannons are being used on farmers. Banerjee has accused the BJP of "snatching" the livelihood of farmers and "curbing" their rights. AAP MLA Raghav Chadha said, "the central government's hubris and inability to dialogue with or listen to the farmer - is an affront to the very 'will of the people' in whose name a govt is allowed to temporarily govern."

However, the BJP launched a hashtag on Twitter #ModiWithFarmers alleging that farmers have received freedom from middlemen due to the farm laws passed by the Modi government but "some political parties and middlemen are spreading rumours and misleading the farmers".