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As UP farmers flock to Ghazipur border protest, SP & BSP change strategy, get more vocal

After farmers answered Rakesh Tikait’s call, BSP chief Mayawati got active on Twitter, while SP leaders from Muzaffarnagar joined the agitation at Ghazipur.

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New Delhi: Swelling crowds at the protests against the three central farm laws at the Ghazipur border between Delhi and Uttar Pradesh have forced the two main opposition parties in India’s most populous state — Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) — to recalibrate their strategies.

BSP chief and former UP CM Mayawati, whose involvement in the farmers’ stir was limited to seemingly perfunctory tweets, went ballistic last Friday, posting four tweets to declare her party’s decision to boycott President Ram Nath Kovind’s address to Parliament, supporting Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leaders, and urging the Narendra Modi not to make farmer leaders scapegoats using the violence on Republic Day.

It’s a big departure in terms of the BSP’s stance on the farm laws since 29 November, when Mayawati had tweeted, “Farmers across the country are agitated over these laws. In view of this…if the central government reconsiders these laws, it would be better.”

She posted five more tweets on the issue since then, but they were in the form of an appeal to the Centre to withdraw the laws in view of the agitation. She never opposed the laws per se.

SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, also a former UP CM, has been opposing the farm laws from the beginning; his party also organised a tractor rally across the state on 26 January. SP workers also held protests in many districts but they were all party events, and had nothing to do with the Ghazipur protests.

That changed Friday, a day after a video of farmer leader Rakesh Tikait weeping went viral in the state, drawing thousands of farmers out of their homes to join the Ghazipur protest. Yadav called up the BKU leader to inquire about his health, and subsequently, SP leaders from Muzaffarnagar joined the protest. 

Also read: As UP sinks, Yogi Adityanath soars — enough to compete for limelight with Modi

Opportunity for Akhilesh to regain prominence

Political analyst Prof. Badri Narayan of the Govind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute, Prayagraj (formerly Allahabad), told ThePrint that the protests have provided Akhilesh Yadav an opportunity to regain prominence in the state. 

“Earlier, it was largely a farmer’s protest but after Tikait’s call, it has also turned into politics of caste,” Narayan said. “Jats from Haryana, Punjab and western Uttar Pradesh have started mobilising after his call. In this scenario, Akhilesh’s politics must be aggressive.”

“Visiting Tikait might not get him Jat votes, but it will certainly redefine his image as a mass leader,” he added. “Tikait’s rise will not dictate the fate of Jat voters, but Akhilesh’s approach towards this agitation will decide his stature.”

A senior SP leader told ThePrint: “We are conducting our own assessment of the impact of the agitation in the state. Only after that, the party will decide if Akhilesh Yadav will visit the protest.”

BSP’s soft stand

The change in stance has been stark for the BSP, which has been accused of going soft on the BJP while taking on the Congress and its general secretary, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. 

BSP spokesperson Sudhindra Bhadauria told ThePrint: “Political parties supporting the protests, simply believe in ‘halla bol‘ (meaning, loud proclamations).We have clarified from the very beginning that the Modi government must repeal the laws. But we do not believe in halla bol. We had condemned the 26 January violence too. There should be a middle ground.”

However, despite Mayawati’s tweets, Bhadauria said she will not visit Ghazipur, and called for the protests not to be politicised. 

“Our party will contest the elections and will win. This protest should not be politicised,” he said. 

D.R. Sahu, professor in the sociology department at Lucknow University, said the BSP has formed a “passive understanding with the BJP”.  

“Socialist, Left and Congress parties have a commitment towards the peasant classes, but BSP has no such commitment other than to its core vote-bank,” he said. “Its strategy is limited to taking a soft stand on social media. Moreover, BSP is already in a crisis and has formed a passive understanding with the ruling BJP in the state.”

Also read: Live in UP & have well-stocked ‘home bar’? You’ll need a Rs 12,000 annual liquor licence soon


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  1. dalits of UP must ditch her who has done nothing for dalits and join Chandrasekar Azad who is facing the brutality of the state in defending dalit minority rights.

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