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How BJP is using Smriti Irani & Bhojpuri to combat ‘misinformation’ over farm bills

The party is devising various state-specific strategies to deal with what it terms is a ‘misinformation campaign’ by the opposition on the farm bills.

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New Delhi: From fielding Union Minister Smriti Irani to speak in Punjabi, launching an animation series in West Bengal to a Bhojpuri drive in Bihar, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is devising various state-specific strategies to deal with what it terms is a “misinformation campaign” by the opposition on the recently-passed farm bills.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s virtual address Friday, in which he called on party workers to conduct small meetings in groups of five over chai (tea) and explain the nuances of the bills to farmers, is also part of the BJP’s campaign.

The strategy was discussed in a meeting Thursday that was attended by state BJP presidents, the party’s Kisan Morcha president Virendra Singh Mast, and general secretaries B.L. Santosh and Arun Singh.

The BJP is taking no chances with assembly elections due in Bihar from 28 October and bypolls in Madhya Pradesh, for which dates are yet to be announced.

The party also does not want a repeat of the fiasco over the land acquisition bill of 2015, in which it had to withdraw six key amendments following opposition from various quarters.

Farmers, particularly in Punjab and Haryana, are up in arms against the farm bills and have been holding a nationwide protest against it Friday. The BJP also faced a setback as ally, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), pulled out its lone minister in the Modi cabinet, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, over the legislation. Another ally, the JD(U), also wants the Modi government to reassess provisions of the legislation.

Sikh farmers, Irani to lead campaign in Punjab

Sources said that at the meeting Thursday, it was decided that the party’s Sikh farm leaders and Union ministers who can speak Punjabi such as Smriti Irani and Anurag Thakur should be fielded in Punjab, where the opposition to the bills has been vehement.

Irani who has given an interview to Doordarshan Punjabi, will hold a few meetings with farmers and so will Anurag Thakur.

Local leaders, however, will drive the campaign here. “We have many Sikh farmer leaders such as Vikramjeet Singh Cheema who has been told to speak to farmers and hold chaupals (village meetings),” a senior BJP leader said. “They have been told to address press conferences in Punjabi to reach out to Punjabi farmers.”

Punjab BJP president Ashwani Kumar Sharma told ThePrint that the state unit has already launched its campaign.

“Our campaign has started and we are reaching every village with the Prime Minister’s message that there will be no change in the MSP and mandi systems,” Sharma said. “The Congress is trying to shift the anti-incumbency against it through raising farmers’ emotions but farmers are intelligent, they will understand the reality in a few days.”

Also read: Only 6% ‘elite’ farmers opposing the bills, says BJP veteran who recommended farm reforms

Bhojpuri social media drive & an animation series in West Bengal

In Bihar, where elections are due in October, the party has started a social media campaign in Bhojpuri that also includes a song on the bills.

“We have assessed that the farmers’ protest will have no impact in Bihar; it is largely confined to Punjab and Haryana,” said a senior Bihar BJP leader. “But we have to be careful about any misinformation campaign by our political opponents.”

The party has also launched a series of cartoons in West Bengal to inform farmers of the benefits of the bill. One of the cartoons has a picture of a middleman snatching money from farmers before the passage of the bills.

BJP Yuva Morcha YouTube show

The Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the party’s youth wing, has been hosting a show by one of its workers, Kapil Parmar, on YouTube that showcases the issues of the day.

In his latest episode, Parmar talks of the “benefits and misconceptions” of the farm bills, which has been widely shared by various Yuva Morcha social media channels and even by its president Poonam Mahajan.

In Thursday’s meeting, it was also decided that all state units would hold kisan chaupals (meetings) with 10 to 15 farmers in every village. The drive has already been launched in Haryana.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also emphasised on this in his speech Friday.

Also read: Kangana, Daler Mehndi part of BJP campaign to allay fears on farm bills, slam opposition


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