New Delhi, Nov 19: At long last, the farmers have won. Fifteen months of continued agitation braving sun, rain and cold on Delhi’s borders brought them cheer on Friday. They forced Prime Minister Narendra Modi to apologize and repeal the three contentious farm laws. It is a victory they deserve to rejoice on the pious occasion of ‘Gurpurab’, the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak today (Nov 19).
The big development came this morning when the PM made an announcement on the national TV news channels that the Government has decided to repeal the three laws. He sought the forgiveness of the farmers for failing to convince them.
Coming as it does on the eve of assembly elections in five states, including Punjab, UP, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur, the announcement has electrified the political atmosphere in the country, particularly in poll going Punjab and Western UP whose farmers played a major role in the agitation. Will the BJP gain by conceding to the farmers’ demand? Will the Opposition be able to put the Government on the mat after it lost the fight with farmers causing huge loss of face for the PM? While these imponderables will play out in public in the coming days, what is certain is that the Modi government suffered a big jolt it had never imagined. Touted as a big ticket reform, the BJP Government at the Centre had expected to implement the three farm laws across the country. It, however, failed to do so in major embarrassment which is bound to dent its image.
It remains to be seen as to how the Opposition exploits the situation in its favor. It is Modi’s worst moment in his seven years of uninterrupted reign. His stiff stance on the farm laws has been all too clear since the beginning. Many lives were lost in the agitation, not to talk of untold miseries caused to large number of farmers, their families and the people of Delhi on its borders.
Conversely, Modi can turn the situation in his favor as well. In one stroke, he has turned the table. Groups of farmers are now thanking him for repealing the laws. Who knows he may have more plans up his sleeve to win over farmer voters on the eve of elections in five states? Winning UP in the upcoming assembly polls early next year will stand him in good stead for the 2024 parliamentary elections. Punjab is an open case now that the ruling Congress is in disarray in the state. By teaming up with Capt Amarinder Singh, estranged Congress leader and former CM, the BJP may attempt to seize power.
Intense political activity will now begin on both sides. Farm leaders like Tikait in UP will be much in demand to bolster their prospects. Modi’s opponents in UP and Punjab— the SP, the Congress and the Akali Dal, for example,–may look like having been stumped, but in reality it is not true. There are far too many issues relating to farmers in the country. They are looking up to the Opposition to find an answer to their problems. Farmers are the worst exploited in the country. Minimum Support Price (MSP) is a mirage for most of them because they are forced to sell for much less to meet their emergent demands. Why can’t the Government set up procurement mechanism on a permanent basis through village panchayats? This alone will go a long way in stopping their exploitation.