Friday, December 9, 2022
HomeOpinionOpposition has finally come together on farm legislation. But that won't be...

Opposition has finally come together on farm legislation. But that won’t be enough

Speaking boldly on Twitter won't work. Opposition can learn from anti-CAA protests ahead of Bihar and West Bengal assembly elections.

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Eighteen opposition parties and 31 farmer organisations have come together to oppose Narendra Modi government’s apparently ill-thought out farm laws, which they wanted a select committee to review before passing in the Rajya Sabha due to the evident lacunae in them. But the opposition was bulldozed. Some experts claim that these legislation can eventually lead to formations of monopolies, oligopolies and cartels.

But how will the Opposition convince the Indian public about the ill-effects of these farm sector reforms? The opposition parties may have come together – a rare occurrence nowadays – but can they sustain, be effective and mobilise mass uprising? Speaking boldly on Twitter, broadcasting self-recorded videos from central hall and giving TV bytes aren’t going to be enough, not with the upcoming Bihar and West Bengal elections at stake. 

Modi and his politics have set new paradigms and opposing them will also require political innovation on part of the Opposition. Sloganeering and throwing papers in the House in hope that a live telecast will make them look like heroes — who stood for a cause — back in their respective constituencies is so last decade. If anything, this is what Modi and his politics feeds on — ‘look at them, they didn’t do much when they were in power, they don’t want me to do it for you now’.

Also read: Farm reform bills are a beginning, not the agricultural equivalent of 1991

Opposition trying to consolidate

The Opposition has decided to rake up these issues jointly. Congress has already launched its nation-wide protest while Shiromani Akali Dal’s lone minister in Modi government, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, walked out of the government to express her displeasure with these laws. Left, NCP, DMK, Samajwadi Party, Trinamool Congress and the RJD — the usual suspects — have also joined in. But how effective will this bunch be?

Before the 2019 Lok Sabha election, these parties had come together as a joint front to decimate the Modi-Amit Shah juggernaut. But the election result revealed that the attempt was a damp squib. The fact that the Congress continually wanted to ascertain itself as the leading national opposition party, which it was, made it take decisions that were not favourable to the joint opposition. Regional leaders like Chandrababu Naidu and Arvind Kejriwal who nurtured aspirations to establish themselves at the centre kept looking for PR opportunities to make them appear at par with Modi. This turned the joint opposition into a Frankenstein that may have looked like a giant but didn’t have a functioning mind.

The same will eventually happen with these farmer protests. Congress is already leading its own nationwide protest while regional leaders, besides the Chautalas and Badals, don’t really care all that much. Their participation in the agitation against the legislation is only to embarrass the government for the way it has stripped Parliamentary rules and decorum. In fact, much has been spoken previously, too, on MSP and how the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has utterly failed in the farming sector with rising farmer suicides.

Also read: When Modi govt came to power, farmer protests increased 700% — the 3 bills are its result

…but it has a poor strike rate

The 2018 farmer protests that saw farmers from Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh  marching on foot all the way to Delhi to ask for debt relief and better MSP on crops was seen as the Modi government’s biggest threat. But all that came crashing down on 23 May when the BJP alone won 303 seats. The joint opposition raking up the Rafael deal and following it up with the ‘Chowkidar chor Hai’ campaign also led to a disgraceful dead end for the Opposition.

The Opposition is using tried and tested failed methods to showcase the policy failures of the Modi government. A citizens’-led movement opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) had much more fervour than any of the joint Opposition protests. This was because it was a ground-up movement, not coming down from the ‘high command’ of any opposition party. The Opposition needs to focus on disseminating the failures of this government on ground, and go door-to-door, through their karyakartas because, by now, it has become clear that their big camera-oriented protests are fizzling out eventually. To understand why this is important, just see what Modi did — at the first sign of the protests gathering momentum, he announced an increase in MSP for six rabi crops and followed it up by asking the BJP workers to spread awareness on the legislation.

The Opposition needs to realise that much of its agitation in the past have failed to showcase the glaring failures of the Modi government, including major policy failures such as demonetisation, faulty Goods and Services Tax (GST) implementation, Kashmir, China and now the agri ‘reforms’  because none of the voters are convinced about how bad the Modi government’s policies actually are. And that is because the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and BJP’s propaganda machinery along with their foot soldiers are much more effective in canvassing Modi and his policies.

The Opposition usually gets irked for being questioned on their failed attempts to showcase the government’s failures. It questions those who seek answers from them and demands that only the government be held responsible. Yes, the government is accountable, but what if those responsible for keeping it on toes are themselves going off balance — issue after issue. Their failure means the government will continue to frame policies that hurt India’s interest.

Questioning the government today, even in the well of the upper House, like
Derek O’Brien did, is not leading to any answers from the Centre. Only voters have the power to tell Modi and Co — ‘no, you are doing it all wrong’. But that will only happen if the Opposition learns how to reach out to people and explain to them everything that this government is hurting since 2014 — from economy to jobs to farmers.

The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal.

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  1. Your first line itself shows that this just usual rant against government. Without any logic u say it’s ill-thought bill. The platform where u r writings this article, Mr. Gupta himself supports the bills, please see his cut the clutter episode on farm bills. Besides, if interested I have collected all the articles, interviews on all different newspaper written by economist, politicians, experts and even common people including farmers. From all the articles, the more weight age goes to positives of bill and all negatives are just pure assumptions and lies spread by opposition’s about the bills.

  2. 1) It was very surprising to see the author omitting CAA out of the list of “failures” of the govt.

    2) It seems the author can’t fathom why voters keep voting bjp to power ? still thinks that modi wins just because of disunity amongst opp parties. She still can’t come to grips with the fact that maj voters have moved on from hollow narratives of erstwhile rulers.

    3) she mentions gst, very conveniently sidestepping that it is the gst council with reps from all states which decided on rates & implementation. Blaming govt when convenient.

  3. There can’t be a utopia. Humanity is always working towards an utopia. Like the horizon, utopia will recede as we seemingly approach it. In a democracy, or for that matter in any form of Governance, there just can’t be a piece of legislation that please all.
    Specifically, on this issue of farmers bills, it is not possible to bring in a legislation that will please the farmers, traders (the whole supply chain), black marketers, hoarders and the end users.
    Tailpiece: Can we assure a one hundred percent guaranteed price for any product in a free market? We may not find a solution to the “Price” in guarantees – next will be adjustment for inflation; we measure inflation also through food prices; a vicious circle will ensue. Just saying.

  4. You have written such a lengthy article but failed to point out how these farm reform bills are not good for farmers. I am unable to find a single valid point in your article which can convince one other than political parties to protest against the bills and that’s why this protest is going to dry out soon.

  5. Coming together for the sake of opposition & to burn a tractor and cause mayhem on the streets – the Indian public has seen this movie before and will reject it equally quickly.
    The opposition is defunct, irrelevant and busted.

  6. If you try to try to showcase non existant failures you are bound to fail isn’t it. In this case as well. We all know that farmers are going to benefit from this bill still you are trying to sell a lie. HOw can you be successful?

  7. Ms. Sikander’s hatred for the BJP govt and Modi/Shah blinds her to the immense positive potential of the farm bills. If implemented in letter and spirit, they can revolutionize Indian agriculture and provide farmers their due respect and better their economic prospects.

  8. Wow. The author actually thinks these reforms are bad. I can’t even. Yes please, let the farmers be in the same old wretched system of state sanctioned monopoly of the trader cartels in the mandi. Let them die by thousands in suicides and God forbid should someone actually risk all their political capital to give our agriculture a chance to grow and actually prosper. What is ironic is these are the same reforms that the congress party mentioned in its manifesto and the author wants the opposition to unite on this very idea. Great.

  9. One of the major reasons for the inefficacy of the oppositions is also the lack of powerful leaders . When in opposition,Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj were the crux of BJP in the parliament and the way they scrutinised, critiqued and asked hard questions to UPA Government, there is no such leader in the opposition right now. Adhir Chaudary and Ghulam Azad stand nowhere in front of these hard-balling politicians. Congress and all the opposition parties have to be more ferocious and vocal and lethal in approaching the Government and posting tweets from the comfort of their houses or disrupting the Parliament is not helping it at all but only further strengthening the Government’s popularity

  10. Let’s analyse what’s happening.

    1) A supporter of anti CAA PROTESTORS who are against HINDUS is upset that BJP government is taking pro farmer decisions .

    2) The DIDI’s main person in DELHI REACTED as a rioter would have as was seen on TV. The reason was that the recent changes in FCRA would undermine proselytizing efforts of ROME through so called NGO’S. That anger had nothing to do with FARM BILL.

    3) Entrenched interest of MIDDLEMEN established over decades of poverty and helplessness of farmers is sought to be destroyed by MODIJI. To expect FAKE JOURNALISTS AND UNDEREDUCATED JHOLLAWALLAS who represent the old system to let it happen without disruption is not possible.

    4) The vagaries in price fluctuations could be controlled through food processing as is the case of milk products.

    5) Hoarding and artificial price rises which do not help FARMERS but enrich middlemen and cause financial hardship to consumers could be avoided.

    6) The current system has failed FARMERS. Though to MODIJI’s credit both the old and new system is open for FARMERS to choose.

    7) jihadi journalist would love and support congrass in any disruption they can cause to a better future of INDIA.

  11. One of the major reasons for the inefficacy of the oppositions is also the lack of powerful leaders . When in opposition, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj were the crux of BJP in the parliament and the way they scrutinised, critiqued and asked hard questions to the UPA Government, there is no such leader in the opposition right now. Adhir Chaudary and Ghulam Azad stand nowhere in front of these hard-balling politicians. Congress and all the opposition parties have to be more ferocious and vocal and lethal in approaching the Government and posting tweets from the comfort of their houses or disrupting the Parliament is not helping it at all.

  12. So the author wants a repeat of Delhi all around India once again by manipulation of minds. Nice thought ya got there ! Mere speculations dont work that these will cause monopolies. Instigation of protests dont work when already we are suffering and you want anarchy all over to further deteriorate investor sentiments. Such a poorly written article with no good intent.

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