From the Viewsroom

BJP on the backfoot

Poornima Joshi | Updated on October 12, 2021

Lakhimpur Kheri marks a shift in the political narrative

Barring perhaps the recoil on amending the Land Acquisition Act at the beginning of its first term, the BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has perfected a take-no-prisoners approach to governance and policy matters. But events that have unfolded since the October 3 incident in Lakhimpur Kheri, Uttar Pradesh, mark a shift. The ruling party has been forced to negotiate with the farmer leader Rakesh Tikait to prevent an escalation of violence in the region.

Violence erupted when a group of farmers who had gathered at the helipad at Maharaja Agrasen ground, Tikonia area, in Lakhimpur Kheri to stop the Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya from landing were allegedly ploughed down by a convoy of vehicles, one of which was allegedly driven by Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Kumar Mishra.

After the initial bravado, arrest and detention of opposition leaders, the BJP government in UP was forced to concede to a judicial probe into the incident, registration of an FIR against Ashish Mishra, his subsequent arrest and compensation for the victims. The BJP has tried to distance itself from the MoS Home and his son. “Being a political leader does not mean that you mow down anyone with a Fortuner,” said BJP’s UP President Swatantra Dev Singh.

The BJP’s Hindutva push, social engineering and a specific brand of welfarism involving direct cash transfers, distribution of rations, among other things, has suddenly found a challenge in farmers’ issues, and anger against lawlessness, and State arrogance. A subdued Opposition has been activated, with farmers’ protests too gaining momentum in Uttar Pradesh. With just a few months to go for the State Assembly elections, a sudden spurt of activity in the Opposition camp certainly shakes the BJP’s thus far unbreached fortress. Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi’s campaigning may not have much resonance in UP but it does strengthen the party’s hand in Uttarakhand and Punjab. The political narrative is subtly shifting in the Hindi heartland.

Published on October 11, 2021

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