The ‘mixed response’ to the Bharat Bandh call by the ‘Sanyukt Kisan Morcha’ indicated how localised the support is for repeal of the farm laws. The turnout was high in areas where the mandi committees have a hold over the wheat, rice, sugarcane market and are chary of competition, least of all from corporations with deep pockets. This basically meant Punjab, Haryana and parts of Western UP, as well as the Delhi borders. It was also high in states run by the BJP’s opposition, such as Kerala, which is ironic as it basically amounted to punishing people who voted for them. BKU leader Rakesh Tikait has already made it abundantly clear that the intent of the movement is to bring down Narendra Modi’s government. He has to because that is exactly why the movement is getting the support of the opposition parties.
Unfortunately for the agitating farmers and the opposition, even such unity could not generate the support that would have communicated a strong message. This is partly because the general public is aware of what lies behind the movement. Any other organised group sincerely fighting for its rights would have been willing to negotiate and come to an understanding. The very fact that they are not willing to give even an inch reveals that the present system of purchase is largely a racket that would collapse if the farmers are given a choice.
Tikait and his kind should also understand that the threat of causing political damage is meaningless, because if the Modi Government surrenders on this issue, it will anyway lose much of the electoral support it derives from the image of being strong and unwavering in its drive to reform India’s economy. It would rather take the gamble of going to the people as the ‘victim’ of a huge ‘anti-national conspiracy’. The Khalistan supporters, Naxalites and others of their ilk are not doing the cause any good by rallying so enthusiastically in its support.
The BJP is also banking on its strategy of reaching out to the marginal sections that are often ignored by traditional caste and community politics. The results of the coming assembly as well as national elections will show how much this has succeeded. On its part, the opposition is now aiming for the ‘Trinamool Formula’, which ensures that voters are intimidated into either not voting, or doing so in its favour, with threats of revenge once voted to power. In the end, it’s just about the struggle for political power.