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- The forthcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh have given new life to the farmers’ movement.
- The agitation is against three agricultural movements passed in Parliament in September 2020.
- On September 5, thousands of farmers had joined Rakesh Tikait’s Mahapanchayat in Muzaffarnagar.
The forthcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh have given new life to the farmers’ movement. These agitations are against the three agricultural agitations passed in Parliament in September 2020. On September 5, thousands of farmers had joined Rakesh Tikait’s Mahapanchayat in Muzaffarnagar in western UP. In it, the leader of the Indian Farmers Union appealed to the farmers to defeat the BJP in the 2022 Assembly elections.
But it is not appropriate to link these incidents to net elections. We should not consider the dissatisfaction of the farmers as pure pre-election anger. This movement has been going on for a long time. This shows how serious the fears of the farmers are. In the last few decades, they have been facing the problem of expensive cultivation and low profits. Apart from this, they also have to face competition from other classes.
Farmers’ organizations are less effective
But the biggest reason for their fear and apprehension is the constant decline in the political influence of farmers’ organizations. At one time, on the basis of population and agrarian economy, these institutions dominated the social, economic and political spheres. But in the last 20 years, the share of farmers in Uttar Pradesh politics has declined, especially in western Uttar Pradesh. Of the 44 seats in the region, only 10 of the MLAs elected in 2017 have declared agriculture as their main occupation, up from 20 in 2012. In addition, the number of legislators declaring businesses as their main business has also increased from 18 to 25. Out of these 25 business-MLAs, only seven belong to the farming community (5 Jats and two Gurjars). The remaining seven are upper castes, four are SACs, three are Muslims and the rest are OBCs.
Changing political trends
Another factor in weakening the grip of farmers is the constant shifting of places to the account of different parties. Election after election, these seats were not only occupied by different parties, they were the rights of different castes. In 2017, only 6 of the 44 seats were won by candidates from the same party that won the last election. Changes were seen in 32 seats. Candidates from the same caste who had won earlier had won only 12 seats.
At least five groups are facing off on UP’s political board. Putting aside the fact of absence of Muslims in BJP MLAs, there does not seem to be any lasting relationship between the party and the castes. It also adds to the uncertainty of the election.
In such a situation, it seems pointless to describe an area as a fortress of any party or caste. Of the 12 seats won by a single caste candidate, only one was a Shamli Jat MLA. The upper castes won the remaining five seats (Deoband, Muzaffarnagar, Sahibabad, Ghaziabad, Shikarpur). Three Gurjar MLAs won from Gangoh, Baghpat and Dadri. Two Jat MLAs won from the reserved seats of Rampur, Maniharan and Hapud while one MLA from Saini caste won from Nakur.
The politics of the new age
Compared to other parts of UP, the old agricultural class has now been replaced by a new age leader in Western UP. As a result, the peasantry is also slowly moving away from peasant movements.
Will BJP suffer?
The question is, can these agitations hurt the BJP’s hopes in 2022? I don’t think it will happen for at least three reasons.
No effect of anger before
First of all, this is not the first time that farmers, especially Jat farmers, have been angry with the BJP before the elections. Jat farmers were outraged in 2016 after the denomination. This was followed by the 2017 UP Assembly elections and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Both times, many Jat voters did not support the BJP. In both the elections, the BJP won 37 seats and 27 Assembly constituencies in Uttar Pradesh respectively. Of course, the BJP must have got some support from the farmers.
One of the main reasons why the BJP continues to support the farmers is that it is the only major party representing the farmers. Since 2007, 11 of the 18 Jat MLAs in western Uttar Pradesh have been from the BJP. The National People’s Party, which is mainly Jats, got only Chhaprauli seat in 2012.
There is no other option
The second reason is that even though it is now assumed that dissent will drive farmers away from the BJP, it is not yet clear which party or alliance will benefit. The other major party in the region is the Bahujan Samaj Party, but its situation is worse in other parts of UP. Even if Tikait proposes a new party of farmers, it will only result in a split of votes, which will ultimately benefit the BJP. So far, the Samajwadi Party has distanced itself from the peasant agitators. Besides, the fact that the peasant movement consists mainly of farmers from western Uttar Pradesh also shows that their movement will not affect other parts of the state.
Lack of an effective leader
The third biggest reason is the failure of this peasant movement to connect with other parties and classes. Peasant politics in the 1970s and 1980s was influential because its leaders were so influential that they were able to unite other classes and groups in the interests of the peasantry. But today’s politics is its own politics. More or less, the BJP will benefit from this contradiction.
(The author is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Ashok University)
This article is translated from our partner newspaper, the Economic Times.
Rakesh Tikait (file photo)
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