‘BJP has not allowed us to enter Delhi. We will not let them enter our villages’ | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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‘BJP has not allowed us to enter Delhi. We will not let them enter our villages’

Apr 08, 2024 09:41 PM IST

Farmers in Punjab and Haryana are angry because the sector is in distress. Some BJP candidates have faced protests from farmers during their campaigns.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) election campaign in Haryana and Punjab has hit a stumbling block with the party’s leaders and a few Lok Sabha candidates facing protests from farmers because of their stand in the recent protests by the farming community.

Farmers sit on a makeshift barricade of sand bags, at a protest site during the march towards New Delhi to push for better crop prices promised to them in 2021, at Shambhu Barrier, the border between Punjab and Haryana states, India February 23, 2024. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi(REUTERS) PREMIUM
Farmers sit on a makeshift barricade of sand bags, at a protest site during the march towards New Delhi to push for better crop prices promised to them in 2021, at Shambhu Barrier, the border between Punjab and Haryana states, India February 23, 2024. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi(REUTERS)

Nayab Singh Saini, Haryana’s new chief minister, the BJP’s candidates in Punjab, Hans Raj Hans (Faridkot), Perneet Kaur (Patiala) and Taranjit Sandhu (Amritsar) and party nominees from Hisar, Sirsa, Sonepat in Haryana have faced protests and awkward questions from local villagers and farmers during campaigns and rallies in the last few days.

Saini, who was out campaigning for the BJP candidate from Sirsa, Ashok Tanwar, was greeted by protesting farmers in Fatehabad on April 5.

Posters warning BJP candidates not to enter villages were plastered on walls by protesting farmers in various pockets of Punjab. Farm unions at the forefront of these protests greeted noted Sufi singer and party candidate Hans Raj Hans with “go back” slogans in Faridkot on Thursday during his first roadshow in the constituency. Hans again faced protests a day later in Moga town by the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan).

Read Here: Govt insensitive towards farmers, says Congress leader Ajay Rai

In Haryana, Pagri Sambhal Jatta Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, a farmer outfit led by Mandeep Nathwan, of Fatehabad has formed teams of farmers in Sirsa, Fatehabad and Hisar villages to question visiting BJP leaders.

The questions centre around issues such as why a statutory guarantee for minimum support price (MSP) has not been announced; and, why the Haryana government dug up roads to stop farmers from reaching Delhi and acted against protesters and labourers by not being given adequate work under national rural employment guarantee scheme.

Tanwar who faced the ire of farmers during his poll campaign in four villages - Karnoli, Dariyapur, Alikan and Hijrawan of Sirsa Lok Sabha seat -- was asked why he remained silent when a BJP leader’s son ran over farmers in Uttar Pradesh; Tanwar was also asked as to why he joined the BJP despite being opposed to their policies earlier.

The BJP’s candidate from Hisar, Ranjit Singh Chautala, also faced protests in Jat-dominated Agroha and Kuleri villages and in Shamsukh, a village with Jats and Rajputs in equal numbers. The farmers asked Chautala why the Haryana government planted iron nails on roads to stop farmers entering Haryana from Punjab.

Read Here: BJP Hisar candidate faces farmers’ ire during canvassing

“Why did the BJP government not waive farm and labourers’ loans? When will the union government give a legal guarantee on the MSP? The BJP candidate failed to answer why Haryana police resorted to lathi-charge on farmers in Hisar, Karnal, Pipli, Khanauri and Shambhu borders,” Amit Dhaka, a local farmer from Shamsukh village in Hisar, said.

Dhaka said that when protesters asked questions related to peasants, Singh insinuated that there was a ‘Khalistan connection’ behind the farmers’ protest.

Singh appeared unperturbed by the protests. “These protests were politically motivated. I hope I will not face such protests in other villages. The three farm laws were rescinded by the Central government. The Haryana government is procuring crops on the MSP,” he said.

Mandeep Nathwan of Pagri Sambhal Jatta Kisan Sangharsh Samiti blames the BJP government at the Centre and in Haryana for “ruining the lives” of farmers and labourers. “Haryana police used force on farmers when they were marching towards Delhi against three farm laws. The BJP leaders termed us as terrorists, Khalistanis. The time has come to teach them a lesson. We will vote against them. The government failed to give us a legal guarantee on MSP, and Haryana police used bullets and drones to disperse farmers from entering Haryana through Punjab borders. Former CM ML Khattar and his deputy Dushyant Chautala remained adamant during both protests and failed to hear us,” Nathwan said.

Read Here: Scuffle between police, farmers amid protest demanding waiving off loans, compensation

Prof Ashutosh Kumar, a professor of Political Science at Panjab University, Chandigarh, said farmers are not happy because the agrarian sector is in distress. The protests in Punjab are a repeat of what happened during the 2022 assembly polls when BJP leaders faced stiff opposition in villages.

Kumar said farmers protesting against BJP leaders is not a good sign. This could mean that the BJP in Haryana will have to rely more on their traditional social support base including urban voters.

“Jats in Haryana are unhappy with the BJP. The Jats once had a hegemony in Haryana. Even during the rule of Bhajan Lal, a non-Jat chief minister, the Jats were not completely ignored. But the BJP’s first chief minister, ML Khattar, did not give them any preferential treatment, which they were used to as a dominant community. They now ceased to be the preferred community. Replacing a non-Jat CM (Khattar) with another non-Jat CM from rural Haryana (Nayab Saini), the BJP has made the party’s intention very clear,” Kumar said.

While the BJP appears to have successfully polarised the non-Jat communities in Haryana, it did pay a price for antagonising the dominant Jat community in the last state election: In the 2019 assembly elections, BJP fielded 20 Jat candidates but only five made it to the state assembly.

Read Here: Displaced by Pavana dam, farmers threaten to boycott general elections

“The BJP emerged winner across 79 assembly segments spread over 10 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 general elections primarily riding on Modi’s charisma. However, the party’s tally came down to 40 in the assembly election, which was held a few months later. Its 58.21% vote percentage of Lok Sabha also dipped to 36.49% in assembly polls,’’ said an analyst who asked not to be named.

Meanwhile, in Punjab, posters have surfaced in Namol village of Sangrur district, considered the hub of farm protests, cautioning BJP leaders against seeking votes in the area. The posters, attributed to the BKU Azad, featured images of young farmer Shubhkaran Singh who lost his life on February 21 during reported clashes between Haryana security forces and the farmer unions at the Khanauri border.

In many Sangrur villages, posters have surfaced highlighting the plight of Pritpal Singh, a farmer from Sangrur who was allegedly assaulted by the Haryana police during the farmer protests and remains hospitalised.

On March 24, tension prevailed in Bathinda when a BJP booth ‘mahotsav’ had to be cancelled due to protests by farmers.

Rajinder Singh Deep Singh Walia, Kirti Kisan Union’s state vice-president, said the BJP has betrayed farmers and did not fulfil their demands.

Read Here | Farmers protest: Centre proposes 5-year plan at round 4 talks, all eyes on next step

“Now, they will face the farmers on the ground. We will oppose BJP's candidates across the state and question them for the failure of the government to fulfil farmers’ demands. We will chalk out the proper strategy to lead a protest campaign against BJP," he added

“BJP has not allowed us to enter Delhi. We will not let them enter our villages,” he said.

BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) leader Shingara Singh Mann said the union plans to oppose BJP candidates in Punjab just to show the power of the farming community to the ruling community.

“So, when they lose, at least they will consider our objections before making such a policy,” he said.

According to political observers in Punjab, the recent farmer agitation had again brought to the fore the distrust between farmers and the BJP-run Centre.

“The tense situation at the Shambhu and Khanauri borders and the use of pellet guns and teargas shells have hurt the sentiments of the farmers. No doubt that there are questions on the demands and timings of the agitation by the farmers but this agitation has brought to fore the old issues between the farmers and the Centre,” said a political expert who wished not to be named.

Dissenting farmers apart, protests against BJP candidates are also symbolic of the anti-incumbency sentiment: For example, protestors in Rohtak and Sonepat constituencies of Haryana cited the indifference of the party MPs towards the electorate.

The BJP candidate from Sonepat, Mohan Lal Badoli, faced local residents' anger at Jind’s Nandgarh and Kila Zafargarh villages recently. The residents of Nandgarh (a Jat and Brahmin-dominated village) said party MP, Ramesh Kaushik, who was not given a ticket this time, did not pay attention towards them.

The BJP’s sitting MP from Rohtak, Arvind Sharma, who is contesting again also faced protests at Sudhrana village in Kosli assembly segment. Irked villagers asked the MP why he did not visit them in the last five years; Sharma made a quiet retreat without addressing them.

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