From the Viewsroom

Farm protests don’t worry the BJP

Poornima Joshi | Updated on February 21, 2021 Published on February 21, 2021

The Opposition lacks the resolve to leverage this mobilisation

For a popular movement to gain political expression, the existence of a strong agency or vehicle is a pre-requisite. The covert yet generous contribution of the RSS in strengthening Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement is a case in point. “India Against Corruption” turned Congress into a metaphor for corruption. It created such a vast political vacuum that even after the BJP led by Narendra Modi had filled it on a national level, there was still scope left for the birth of a second political vehicle in the form of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

In terms of number, spread and participation, the ongoing farmers’ movement is bigger in scope and the complexity of issues it raises. In States where it originated, Punjab and Haryana, the BJP undoubtedly has a problem. It is also gaining traction in western Uttar Pradesh with a regional group like the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) literally being resurrected by the khaps, social congregations of Jat sugarcane-growers who have lost political clout and their economic muscle with the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh refusing to raise the State Advised Price (SAP) on their crop for the third year in a row. The Jats are straining to reassert their lost status in the region.

Given that the party’s chief strategist, Home Minister Amit Shah, plays to win and has a take-no-prisoners approach to political battles, the concerned MPs and leaders have been sounded out and conscripted to follow the BJP’s outreach programme in the region affected by the farm movement. However, the farm movement still does not ring real alarm bells for the ruling BJP. Partly, it is because the party did not catch political imagination in Punjab in 2014 or in 2019 general elections, anyway. And in Haryana and western UP, it will depend on anti-Jat social engineering to counter the political fallout of the movement. But the main reason for the BJP’s confidence is that the Opposition, especially its national adversary the Congress, simply does not have RSS’s resolve, cadre or the conviction to translate the farm movement into tangible political expression. And the Left is too fragmented to create a political vacuum and then strive to fill it a la RSS/BJP in Anna Hazare’s time.

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Published on February 21, 2021
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