Wednesday, February 1, 2023
HomeOpinionPolitically CorrectWhy PM Modi must worry about paper tigers surrounding him

Why PM Modi must worry about paper tigers surrounding him

PM Modi’s paper tigers roar against the opposition on TV and Twitter, but none venture out of Lutyens’ Delhi to go to the Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders.

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Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan was in his element in the Rajya Sabha last Thursday. “I am presenting the facts, not telling mann ki baat,” he said, citing official figures and data concerning the government’s pro-farmer policies. He tore into the opposition parties, laying bare their track record in governance. So did many other ministers.

There was never an issue with facts. There is unanimity among experts that farm sector reforms are much-needed. Tell that to farmers gathered at Delhi borders! Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ministers are doing what they do best — praising him and blaming the opposition parties for misleading the farmers about the three farm laws. “Those born with silver spoons can’t digest the fact that a chaiwalla’s son has become…the pradhan sevak of the country,” said Pradhan. Other ministers were no less effusive in singing paeans.

It may not bring much comfort to PM Modi though. For once, he needs his party members to change the narrative on the ground. Because the Right-wing troll army — also a section in the ruling dispensation — has only compounded the problem by rallying against pop stars and activists and turning them and their ilk into international crusaders for Indian farmers’ interest. Worse, this troll army’s attack on new US Vice President Kamala Harris’ niece, Meena Harris, and her strong pushback — highlighting alleged sexual assault on a rights activist in Delhi police custody, and daring people using Hindu religion as a cover for fascism — must ring alarm bells in the South Block.

But S.Jaishankar-led Ministry of External Affairs seems to be more mindful of its domestic audience as it chooses to dignify a US pop star’s tweet with a full-fledged official statement, and sees similarities between violence at the Red Fort during the farmers’ stir in Modi-led India and Capitol Hill ‘insurrection’ in Donald Trump-led US.

The Modi government’s usual crisis managers look clueless about a solution to the farmers’ agitation that is drawing international attention. And that’s why the PM must be looking up to his party to douse the fire on the ground.

But what’s happened to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which surpassed the Communist Party of China in 2015 to become the world’s largest political outfit?

Last heard, party president J.P. Nadda was counting 18 crore BJP members, and saying that only seven countries had more people than them.


Also read: Modi govt has lost farm laws battle, now raising Sikh separatist bogey will be a grave error


Missing in action

Everyone agrees that the BJP is a well-oiled electoral machine, a juggernaut. Opposition parties are at their wit’s end, reading about the ubiquitous BJP booth-level workers, panna pramukhs, and mandal heads. Where have they all gone, suddenly, in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh? The BJP never announced a detailed result of its membership drives in these states. Therefore, only BJP leaders would know how many members the party has in Ambala, Jind, Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, or Ghaziabad. One doesn’t know how many people in Haryana are BJP members. But PM Modi, Amit Shah, and Nadda would know, of course, and must be looking out for them today.

It must upset PM Modi that a party of 18 crore members should look absent from the trouble spots when they’re needed the most—to reach out to farmers, convince them of the benefits of the central farm laws, and counter the opposition’s “propaganda”. If the members are still there, and yet the opposition is able to “mislead” farmers, the BJP must start worrying.

It’s not just the vanishing act of BJP members and workers at the grassroots. PM Modi may also be exasperated with the paper tigers in his council of ministers and in the party’s organisational set-up. Just hear their roars at the opposition in front of TV cameras and on Twitter. But none would venture out of their dens in Lutyens’ Delhi and go to villages in the bordering states — or even to Delhi’s borders like Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur — to tell agitators why the PM is right and why they are wrong.

Remember Sanjeev Kumar Balyan? He had made national headlines during the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots. He went on to become a minister in the Modi government in 2014. Now Rakesh Tikait, the leader of Balyan Khap to which the minister belongs, has become a huge headache for Modi. If the PM expected his minister to redeem his pledge as the party’s Jat face in western UP, he must be hugely disappointed. Except for making some perfunctory statements asking farmers to return home because their agitation has been “hijacked by anti-social elements”, Balyan has been a mere spectator to Tikait’s rise to prominence and the build-up of his Jat support at Delhi-Ghazipur border. The BJP has four other Jat MPs from western UP and over a dozen other non-Jat parliamentarians from that region. They are nowhere to be seen on the ground today. A section of BJP leaders is also curious as to how Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has failed to rein in Rakesh Tikait, who is considered close to the former UP chief minister.

And where is Brijendra Singh, Hisar MP and son of Chaudhary Birender Singh, who was the Jat face in the Modi cabinet in his first term? Well, last heard in November, he said that the three farm laws are reformist and revolutionary, but all stakeholders should have been taken on board before passing them. His father has already taken a dig at the Manohar Lal Khattar government in Haryana and the BJP leadership in Punjab for not addressing the farmers’ apprehensions before the bills were passed in Parliament. But it would probably be unfair to blame the first-term MP, Brijendra, when the BJP had swept all the 10 seats in Haryana in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The other nine are also watching the mobilisation of farmers from a safe distance.

The BJP has two MPs from Punjab—Union minister Som Prakash from Hoshiarpur and Sunny Deol from Gurdaspur. Som Prakash has been trying to play it safe, maintaining that the government of India is serious about resolving the farmers’ issues. Sunny Deol has also been guarded, saying that he stood with his party and the farmers even as some people were trying to take advantage of the situation.


Also read: The liberal dilemma on Rakesh Tikait — overlook Muzaffarnagar riots or future under Modi


Where the BJP’s priorities lie

It’s not just the ministers and MPs who are playing it safe, leaving it to the Modi government’s top brass to sort out the political mess. The world’s biggest party looks almost detached from the crisis, leaving it to the PM and his government to handle their own affairs.

Last month, the party planned an outreach programme to counter what it calls a ‘disinformation’ campaign against the farm laws. It was to organise press conferences, public contact programmes, and ‘chaupals’ in all districts of the country. As is evident, this had no impact in Punjab, Haryana and western UP, at least. The Haryana unit of the party is now planning to reach out to khap panchayats and Jat leaders, but it’s still in the planning stage.

Look at BJP president J.P. Nadda’s Twitter handle and you understand the priorities. He spent the last week campaigning for the party in West Bengal and Kerala. And what warm reception he was getting! The radiant face, garlands, the waving of hands at the crowds, said it all: He always belonged there, notwithstanding the critics who thought he would remain under Amit Shah’s shadow.

In such moments of glory, who would like to remember those gloomy faces at the Delhi borders? If the Prime Minister is looking lonely at the top today, surrounded by paper tigers, he should also take a part of the blame. Modi never told them they needed to do better than aping former Congress president D.K. Barooah, whose infamous slogan—Indira is India and India is Indira—continues to inspire many politicians even today. Aside, Barooah had abandoned her after she lost power.

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17 COMMENTS

  1. The number of individuals knowledgeable about the farming community is amazing. Amongst the various stories floated by the government and associates / supporters is (i) A few states corner the MSP story. Unless you wish to quote 2012 – 13 data it is untrue. Current data will indicate that paddy was procured from over 11 states. Punjab and Haryana contributed about 35% of this. Wheat was procured mainly from the northers states (as major growers) and Punjab and Haryana contributed about 40 % of that. Madhya Pradesh was the state from which the largest wheat procurement was made. Orissa has recently asked for the government to provide MSP on 23 crops. Crops which are procured currently include non paddy – wheat cereals , maize, groundnut, various lentils/”dals”, various edible oils and so on. It would be good if people noted that Punjab does not feature anywhere in the procurement of these non paddy – wheat items, (ii) further it should be understand that different parts of India implemented the Mandi/procurement system at different times, and the north implemented it earlier than the east and so on, and so to that extent the MSP procurement is better organized in the north. It would be goo also to know the condition of the Bihar farmer where Nitish bhai / BJP removed the MSP story, (iii) 60% of Indian farmers cannot produce enough to sell any worthwhile surplus crop to anyone let alone under MSP – so all the statistics which use the entire farmer base as a reference indicates a lack of understanding and bias., (iv) the stories about the procurement by the FCI and quality control may be correct – settle the centrally / BJP run FCI, (v) if the FCI cannot total the correct amount of procurement – settle the centrally / BJP run FCI, (vi) the so called middleman is the money lender to 60% of the farmers – not the government. As per news media the TN CM is a well respected land owner and money lender. Possibly these individuals need to get in touch with him and get the true story, (vii) the shopkeeper is the ultimate middleman. The recent Ambani purchase of paddy from South India was thru a middleman. That is the nature of purchase – processing and distribution. Don’t blame the farmer or the middleman.

  2. To some extent, you are right. These paper tigers of the BJP are Modi’s creation. Just like Indira Gandhi, Modi has surrounded himself with yespersons, who look towards him for their survival. To neutralize this fake kisaan andolan, the ground level leadership, which is totally weak, must be strengthened. Also one should not overlook the fact that the agitation in northern part of India is led by those who have been controlling the market committees since long. They are totally dependent on some patronage from abroad. Most of those present in these rallies are those who hire labourers to work in fields and have multiple businesses to survive a long stir, and others are hired with mysterious funds on daily basis with free flow of liquor.

  3. It is the false narrative being spread by the leftist media and so-called liberals that the amassing of agitating crowds and section of which indulged in violence on 26 th January are fighting for the cause of farmers or concerned with perceived economic distress which the implementation of three farms laws may inflict upon poor farmers. it has two dimensions. One , Its economic cause is that implementation of these laws in long run will make middle men –Artiyas – to loose financial clout on poor farmers. Hence they are financing and supporting this agitation. Second , it is a proxy politico- battle being fought by the discarded, defeated erst-while ruling dynasty and some of ex-regional bosses who lost people confidence and support . The leftist journalists are aware of these facts but they seems to have chosen to misrepresent and mis-report actual facts to their readers .
    As far as BJP s second lines of leaders and BJP supporters in the street all know it well that ultimately this so-called agitation is doomed to failure as it has not got any public support outside 20-30 districts of north India. That support too will be waning as all prolonged agitations are taken away by disruptive forces and This agitation is no exception. One act of this drama was enacted on 26.01.2021 on the campus of Lal quila. The support sought and extended by westrn pop-singers, femal porn stars , leftist journalists , professional Modi –haters petty leaders / politicians who have never got 10 % of the votes polled in election, will not make illegitimate demands of agitating farmer legitimate as so-called farmer leaders have not been able point out to the Government, the nation , The Supreme Court, infirmities in these laws . When Government is ready to rectify any shortcoming in the laws,, What is problem in telling the problem area ??
    One more thing – It will be too early to declare Modi will loose next election due to farmers agitation. Elections in India have been won or lost due to TINA ( there is no alternative ) factor . And where there is alternative ,, people compare the persona of Modi verse Rahul , people compare party s composition and character — Congress verse BJP, BJP verse Gathbandhan . Results are/ will be obvious.

    • Dont say no alternative to Modi. Was there alternative to Nehru, Indira, Rajiv. Nature will always throw up someone. Nothing is
      permanent in this world and everything passes.

  4. Author really has no clue about BJP’s organisational structure. There is a reason why nobody has gone to protesting “farmers” – BJP doesn’t want to be seen talking to anarchists.
    Author should stand in local body elections against these so called paper tigers – losing deposit against these paper tigers will bring in some insights.

  5. why will the farmers understand when their excess income depends on not understanding it?
    And the middlemen dont want to pay tax — so?

  6. It is a lesson in Management that those who don’t delegate, don’t live to tell the tale. The problem with being authoritative when you’re the head of a major company or political party of country is that you end up becoming the bottle-neck; so used to not taking decisions or actions independently and conforming to a feudal mind-set might be alright in a state where your right hand man runs 20 portfolios for you, but up the scale and suddenly you’re surrounded by token sloganeers and closet insecure underlings. If there is something you can learn from the book “Half-Lion” it is now Dr. Rao ensured to surround himself with folks who could carry weight, sure, they were not political heavy-weights but the need of the hour was different and so you had Dr. Singh & Chidambaram and others taking bold steps and holding fort as they went about dismantling the old style of governance. It looks like the loss of Mrs. Sushma Swaraj & Arun Jaitley is too dear still, Mr. Gadkari can hold fort, but more is needed. People of action and not just the loudest voices in an echo chamber.

    btw, brilliant article as always 🙂

  7. This battle, as the Editor said, is well and truly lost. All that remains is to sweep away the detritus of the party after the revellers have gone home.

  8. Does The Print agree with their opinion writer’s highlighting of the Khap panchayats as the pre-eminent power centres of the Jat community?

  9. Mr Minister stop bluffing. You can no more make people fools. Your PM have no guts to talk to the protesting farmers. You still blame farmers. Secondly, tell me our Hon’ble PM is a Chaiwaala or son of Chaiwalaa?

  10. Dear Print,

    You have to take responsibility for what you publish on your portal. If D.K.Singh is your political editor, what is written here cannot be his personal view. Please stop covering your ass!

    Secondly, why do you north Indians think that Punjab and Haryana are the center of gravity of India? Though there have been sympathetic protests in other parts, they are merely tokenism. Farmers in the South find it convenient to enter into contract farming agreement with companies who also provide them seeds, fertilizers and pesticides.

  11. I can summarize your thoughts from this article with these points.

    1). Farmer leaders wants to engage in talks but BJP leaders (Especially Jat) leaders should take the initiation.

    2). Rajnath Singh should take the initiation to resolve the issue, so that Farmer leaders have a face saving excuse.

    3). Rakesh Tikait will contest next elections on RLD ticket with his two minute fame.

    4). This article is nothing but a co-opted journalism not un-hyphenated journalism as Sekhar Gupta claims.

  12. No one obiviously including government and media has guts to clearly state why certain community where there is 95 percent procurement by “GOVERNMENT” are protesting.

    Because corruption in procurement is a beneficial to farmers, middlemen, government employees , politicians and journalist ( journalist are paid to keep mum about the scam)

    There is no quality control over procurement.

    THE procurement is shown far in excess of actual procurement and the proceeds are distributed to all above mentioned benefactors.

    THE solution is to break this nexus by procurement on MSP from all states in INDIA and not 2 and 1/4 area of INDIA.

    Will ultra left wing radicals and jihadist ensure trouble when such a policy is implemented. Ofcourse they will or else they will anyways find another way to create trouble.

    However BJP will win with greater numbers is procurement and therefore resources are distributed in a open manner to farmers all over INDIA.

    • Or the PM could just create the post of ‘Raisena Hills Press Secretary’, hire a press secretary, who will immediately counter opposing statements with facts. The PM has a problem of not communicating their ideas effectively, which can be solved by hiring a press secretary.

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