Chandigarh: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement to repeal the three farm laws is expected to come as a huge relief to Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar who was leading an increasingly unpopular government in wake of growing resentment among farmers against the BJP-JJP alliance.
While the announcement reinforces the stability of the BJP-JJP tie-up, the two parties, which have been termed as “anti-farmer”, however, have an uphill task ahead to bring the agrarian community back into their fold.
Reacting to the Friday development, Khattar said the BJP has always been dedicated to serving farmers.
गुरु नानक देव जी के प्रकाशपर्व और देव दीपावली के अलौकिक पर्व पर माननीय प्रधानमंत्री श्री @narendramodi जी की घोषणा और अपील का मैं स्वागत करता हूँ। कृषि और किसानों के हित में भारतीय जनता पार्टी सदैव समर्पित रही है और आगे भी उनके कल्याण के कार्य करती रहेगी। pic.twitter.com/bB54WUQRz5
— Manohar Lal (@mlkhattar) November 19, 2021
Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) leader and deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala said the decision to repeal farm laws is a “commendable step for maintaining communal harmony”.
गुरुपर्व के पवित्र अवसर पर कृषि कानूनों को वापस लेने के केंद्र सरकार के फैसले का हम स्वागत करते हैं. सामाजिक शांति और भाईचारे की बहाली के लिए यह कदम सराहनीय है. मैं सभी किसान जत्थेबंदियों से धरना समाप्त करने का आग्रह करता हूँ. हम किसान हित के लिए हमेशा प्रयास करते रहेंगे.
— Dushyant Chautala (@Dchautala) November 19, 2021
Haryana home minister Anil Vij also tweeted his support of the move exhorting the farmers to end their “dharnas”.
प्रधानमंत्री नरेंद्र मोदी जी की गुरु नानक देव जी के प्रकाश उत्सव पर तीनों कृषि कानूनों को वापस लेने की घोषणा पर सभी किसान संगठनों को प्रधानमंत्री नरेंद्र मोदी जी का आभार प्रकट करना चाहिए और अपने धरने तुरंत उठाकर अपने अपने घरों को जाकर अपने नियमित कामों में लगना चाहिए ।
— ANIL VIJ MINISTER HARYANA (@anilvijminister) November 19, 2021
Notably, the BJP and JJP leaders shied away from giving any credit to the year-long farmers’ agitation in which Haryana farmers also played a key role.
Farmer leaders now say that even though the repeal of farm laws puts Khattar and his government on a surer footing, the manner in which the agitating farmers were treated by them will not be forgotten easily.
Haryana farmers versus BJP
Unlike Punjab where the ruling Congress government was supporting the agitation, the protesting farmers faced the direct wrath of the BJP in Haryana.
“The attitude of Khattar’s government was clear from the word go. On the day of the Delhi march on 26 November (2020), the Haryana Police had made every possible effort to ensure that the farmers do not cross Punjab borders and even enter Haryana, much less reach Delhi. Multiple layers of barricading was done on the roads leading to Delhi and at several places the farmers were tear-gassed and water cannons were used against them,” Gurnam Singh Chaduni, president, BKU Haryana, and member of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) told ThePrint.
Once the agitation from Punjab reached Delhi’s borders — Singhu and Tikri — some Haryana BJP leaders issued statements over the SYL canal issue. The remarks were seen as an attempt to create differences between the farmers from the two states.
Haryana agriculture minister J.P. Dalal also derided the farmers saying that China and Pakistan were trying to destabilise India through the farmers.
However, despite these remarks, Haryana farmers provided all possible support to the farmers stationed at Tikri and Singhu. They adopted the methods of agitation employed by Punjab farmers and disrupted a host of public programmes of BJP leaders including those of Khattar.
The Khattar government too showed no sympathy. Farmers were lathi-charged at Karnal in August this year leaving at least 10 injured. Last year, in October, protesting farmers were lathi-charged in Sirsa.
Last month, Khattar exhorted farmer bodies sympathetic to the BJP to raise volunteer groups in villages for “tit for tat” treatment for agitating farmers. He withdrew his remarks following backlash.
“We were termed Khalistanis. The Haryana government tried to create differences among Punjab and Haryana farmers. Then they tried to communalise the movement by making it a Sikh and Hindu fight. They used brutal force of the police on us, registered cases against almost 48,000 farmers. The farmers’ agitation has only exposed the Haryana BJP’s ruthless face which will not be forgotten for decades,” added Chaduni.
Farmer leaders also say the JJP has not fared any better. “If anything, farmers in Haryana are more upset with JJP than BJP over their not supporting them. Ajay Chautala got votes in the name of their great leader and grandfather Devi Lal. And they brought nothing but blotch of disgrace to Devi Lal’s legacy,” said Chaduni.
The JJP, a breakaway faction of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), is a rural Jat-centric party and farmers are considered to be their core vote bank.
However, the JJP led by Ajay Chautala and his son and deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala chose to stick with the BJP despite farmers seeking their support. Farmers demanded Dushyant’s resignation but Ajay Chautala defended him, saying his resignation will not lead to any solution.
“Initially the JJP wanted to probably withdraw support from the BJP but when they analysed the situation they realised that withdrawing (support) might not lead to the fall of Khattar government because they had the support of independent MLAs as well. That is when they chose to stick with the government,” says Professor Rajbir Singh, Head, Department of Political Science, Central University, Haryana.
“The BJP-JJP might feel that they have redeemed themselves today but it is not true. They cannot claim credit for what happened in any way. And fortunately or unfortunately public memory is short so one cannot really say if the farmer’s agitation will be even an issue in Haryana when the next assembly elections are held in 2024,” he said.
(Edited by Neha Mahajan)