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Farm Laws Repeal: A win for farmers or vote-bank politics?

The forthcoming elections in the state of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh may have a key to this answer, some experts have told Asianet Newsable.

Farm Laws Repeal Understanding the western Uttar Pradesh, Punjab equation
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New Delhi, First Published Nov 19, 2021, 3:30 PM IST
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to repeal the three agricultural laws, which he termed on Friday as well-intentioned and sacred, is being termed as a major victory for farmers who have been protesting for nearly a year beyond the borders of the national capital. But what made the government change its stand suddenly after remaining firm for months and ruling out any rollback of the farm laws? The forthcoming elections in the state of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh may have a key to this answer, some experts have told Asianet Newsable.

Professor Sanjay Kumar
Co-Director of Lokniti, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies

Why roll back farm laws now?

"The government must have felt that the farm laws are not beneficial to the farmers. This is a technical thing. But as far as I understand that there is a politics of vote bank and the BJP thought it would damage their political prospects in the upcoming assembly elections. These laws were denting the party in Uttar Pradesh, though the BJP has no significant presence in Punjab it was also damaging in the state. 

The Jat voters are angry and the party might have had to bear the brunt of the farming community in the western part of Uttar Pradesh. Besides, other parts too. Keeping all these in mind, the government decided to repeal these laws. 

Prior to this, elections have held in other parts of the country. We need to understand where the elections have taken place. It was in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. These states do not have a bearing on the farmers' protest. Though the BJP has lost West Bengal but the farmers protests have nothing to do with it. Now, elections are happening in those states where the farmers are agitating. Farmers from western UP and Punjab are leading the agitation. Winning the Uttar Pradesh elections is very crucial for the BJP. For the 2024 general elections, the way to reach Delhi is via Uttar Pradesh. So this is an important election for the BJP and the reason why the government acted promptly. 

What sort of impact can be seen in elections?

The decision's impact is very clear. The Jat voters in western UP were slipping away and now the party would be able to manage it. It will also have an impact on Punjab. You must recall that Captain Amarinder Singh (former Punjab chief minister) had said he was trying to convince the BJP government to revoke the farm laws. He said that if it (repeal of farm laws) happens, he could contest elections in alliance with the BJP in Punjab. 

Capt Amarinder will take all credit and the BJP will not deny it. They might fight polls together. They may not be able to form the government, but surely stop Congress from retaining the power in the state or there would be a hung assembly. There may be a possibility that the Shiromani Akali Dal also joins hands with them in that case. The BJP aims to regain ground which it has lost in Uttar Pradesh and remove the Congress from power in Punjab."

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Radhika Ramaseshan 
Senior journalist & political analyst

What was the impact of farm laws in Uttar Pradesh?

"I travelled to parts of Uttar Pradesh and there is no doubt that Centre and state governments' welfare measures and Hindutva are working in the villages and the ground. But, correspondingly, there are huge concerns over agrarian distress among farmers. The Lakhimpur Kheri tragedy has passed the message of farm laws all over Uttar Pradesh. Earlier, there were protests only in western Uttar Pradesh. Now, everybody in UP knows about the farm laws and what damage they can cause to farmers. 

So every farmer is concerned about why the government is not passing a law for MSP, to give the minimum statutory price a legislative status. Why are they encouraging an open market? These are concerns expressed by small and marginal farmers, particularly those who are otherwise strong BJP supporters. They say, 'we cannot take our products to some open markets which are far away in a town or city. We do not have the money. We do not have that amount to justify a trip to town. We move our mandis near our villages and they should prescribe an MSP.'

This was the big issue in the villages of Uttar Pradesh. The likelihood of the BJP being defeated is still very remote. Technically they would have lost and once you start losing seats you don’t know where it will end. So what the BJP has been doing is sending their karyakartas/workers to villages. I saw representatives of the local MPs talking to all the village heads from nearby villages and making him know what the problem was.

I asked them to list the problems. Firstly, they expressed concerns over MSP. Secondly, fertiliser is not available. Thirdly, farmers cannot sell cattle to slaughterhouses because of the law that Adityanath has brought in and lastly is flooding -- the fields were flooded with unseasonal rains, the crops have been destroyed. They have complained that the government has not procured anything. There are serious problems

What kind of impact will the decision have?

It is very early to say. One has to travel again and talk to the farmers to know about what impact it has. But some farmers have told me that they have enough faith in Modi and that they are sure that he will make some corrections. Prime Minister Modi’s credibility is quite high in the villages and the rural areas.

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PM Modi's Gurupurab gift to farmers: Centre to repeal all 3 farm laws

 

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