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Why Congress has consistently failed to translate farmer outreach into election wins

Congress suffered a major blow in recent local body polls in Rajasthan despite its strong support to farmers. And this is not the first time this has happened.

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New Delhi: Amid the Congress’ vociferous support to the farmers agitating against the three farm laws by the Narendra Modi government, the party suffered a major electoral blow in Rajasthan’s local body polls.

The Congress lost to the BJP in both the panchayat samiti elections and the zilla parishad polls in 21 districts.

According to the results announced Wednesday, out of the 4,371 panchayat samitis, the BJP won 1,989 seats and the Congress won 1,852 seats. Similarly, of the 636 seats in the zilla parishad elections, the BJP won 353 seats while the Congress managed to secure just 252.

This defeat is especially concerning for the party since the BJP managed a victory despite the mammoth protest by the farmers against the Modi government’s farm bills. And the Congress was defeated even after their strong support to the farmers.

On Wednesday, a delegation of five opposition leaders, including Congress’ Rahul Gandhi, met President Ram Nath Kovind and submitted a memorandum demanding the repeal of the three contentious laws.

While addressing the media outside Rashtrapati Bhavan after the meeting, Gandhi said, “The way the bills were imposed, we see it as an insult to the farmers of this country. The kisaan has lost faith in the government. The kisaan does not believe that the government is acting in their interest and that is why lakhs of them are on the streets, nonviolently and compassionately on the streets.”

Also read: What Modi govt proposed but farmers rejected — assurance on MSP, 7 amendments to new laws

Congress has consistently failed to capitalise on farmer anger

However, farmer-led movements have rarely ever resulted in electoral gains for the Congress.

In 2015, after immense backlash, some contentious amendments to the 2013 Land Acquisition Act were withdrawn by the Modi government.

This was seen as a significant victory for the Opposition at the time, which had led a scathing attack against the government.

While the RJD-led mahagathbandhan, comprising the JD(U) and the Congress, won the Bihar elections that took place a few months later, the Congress was not able to capitalise on the farmers’ angst in the next several elections.

The party lost four out of five states that went to polls a year later in 2016. It lost power in Assam and Kerala and also did not gain ground in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. Puducherry was the only election it won that year.

Then, in 2017, the Congress led a protest against the killing of 6 farmers in Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur in a police firing during an agitation demanding loan waivers.

Rahul Gandhi, who was then Congress president, had even gone to meet the families of the deceased farmers, ahead of the 2018 Madhya Pradesh assembly election campaign.

While the Congress did win the state election, the party failed to capture the Mandsaur seat, losing out to the sitting BJP MLA Yashpal Singh Sisodia.

This was also not the first time Gandhi’s elaborate attempt at farmer outreach failed to translate into a poll win.

Back in 2011, Gandhi rode pillion into the twin villages of Bhatta and Parsaul in Western Uttar Pradesh, which had been at the centre of the farmer protests against the then Mayawati-led government.

His visit to the village and the reception it got, made Congress confident of winning at least the one seat in the following 2012 assembly elections.

However, the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party’s candidate won from the Jewar seat, under which fell the twin villages, while the Congress candidate fell short by nearly 10,000 votes.

Also read: Hannan Mollah — Presidency graduate & CPM leader who has become face of farmer protest

Farmers a divided political constituency’ 

According to political analysts, farmer politics have hardly ever been able to make an impact on elections, more so in recent years.

“This is because farmers are not a united political constituency but equally divided along the lines of caste, class, region and ideology as the rest of the population. Famers generally fail to forge durable and broad coalitions that can systematically alter electoral competition. The only big exception has been (former prime minister) Chaudhary Charan Singh,” Asim Ali, research associate at the Centre for Policy and Research, told ThePrint.

However, Ali added that, historically, the Congress has been even less adept at reaping the benefits from a farmer constituency.

“In fact, the Congress has been the biggest political loser from the political mobilisation of peasants post-Green Revolution. These peasants, mostly from the backward castes, deserted the party from the late 1960s to form the core of their own regional parties,” he said.

Ali further noted that the Congress may have benefited from rural distress by building schemes like the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) and extending farm loan waivers during UPA-I.

“But even here the Congress gained more from a pro-poor message rather than a pro-farmer message.”

Also read: Disunity, lacklustre poll show, defections — Telangana Congress on continuous downslide mode

Congress Kisan committee headless for a year

According to Congress leaders, farmers are a difficult group to mobilise, mostly because of the existing divisions along caste and class lines.

Furthermore, the All India Kisan Congress, the party’s cell dedicated to farmers, has been functioning without a chairperson for over a year now after Nana Patole quit the post in July 2019 following the party’s defeat in the Lok Sabha polls.

Congress spokesperson Supriya Srinate, however, maintained that the fight for farmers is not about political gains and losses.

“Crores of farmers in India are absolutely upset and have point black rejected the farm laws. In this fight for their survival and future, we stand by them,” Srinate said.

“Any fight for the farmer, irrespective of electoral gains or losses, will be fought by the Congress till its rightful conclusion,” she told ThePrint.

Unlike the Congress, the ruling National Democratic Alliance has managed to increase electoral support among farmers over the years.

According to the 2019 Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey, the NDA was able to increase its vote-share among farmers more than any other voter base across major states, despite the multiple farmers’ movements against the government in the preceding years.

Also read: Allies step up pressure on BJP to end deadlock with farmers, party says ‘treading cautiously’


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  1. Congress worked for, works and will work for a designated family only. It is clearly well-known to every body who has even an iota of knowledge about its working, thinking and work -culture. Surprising. authours writing for ThePrint does not know about this basic fact about the congress party s history, its work culture and its ONLY permanent aspiration to install some one from the designated FAMILY on PM s seat. Farmers, labourers, middle classes , internal -external security of nation, its growth are just disposable and dispensable subjects to work for by the party. But then why some people write on these topics ? Pro-congress writers are free to write what ever they write about non-existing concern in the party on these minuscule subjects . They write for readers of magazines or web-portals to waste time of the readers. The party is immune to such diseases.

  2. ALL farmers are not protesting.
    This protest is led by farmers who are richer than most of us commentators but have to pay no tax. So thinking they are all the farmers of India is a mistake.

  3. BJP winning in Jat dominated agri-oriented rural panchayats is no joke, particularly when Rajasthan has trend of ruling party winning Panchayat polls.
    Asking release of Shaheen bhag traitors is no farmers protest and people understand it very well. Hence you can see BJP victorious in Panchayat polls.

  4. The writing is on the wall for opposition as well as newstraders like The Print.
    BJP winning in Jat dominated agri-oriented rural panchayats is no joke, particularly when Rajasthan has trend of ruling party winning Panchayat polls.
    Asking release of Shaheen bhag traitors is no farmers protest and people understand it very well. Hence you can see BJP victorious in Panchayat polls.

  5. Congress has always neglected agriculture and farmers for a very long time. Majority of farmers have been at the mercy of middlemen and APMC traders who are essentially powerful politicians. The exceptions may have been a few who got the benefits of MSP and are now at the forefront of the agitation against new farm laws. The vast majority of poor farmers, landless labourers are not part of the agitation. No wonder Congress gets no support from farmers as all its policies including support for the current protests have always been against the vast majority in the farming community.

  6. I really don’t understand why all are after one particular party Finding fault in every bit of action . Why arnt there any other politicians or leaders in Congress ? Being after Rahul Gandhi in every failure ? BJP has been winning in most of the areas is by some blunder I feel

    • Irene Warwale, it is because that parti is failing and disintegrating in a spectacular manner. And RG is the head of Congress even if he does not want to be so.

  7. Smt Sonia Gandhi made the supreme sacrifice of not celebrating her birthday yesterday, on 9th Dec, in solidarity with the protesting farmers. This news was published all over by a fawning media. Are you saying that this sacrifice was in vain? Are you saying that the farmers could not care less? And to think that people of Goa were looking forward to this bash, which would have been the biggest event in that state, ever since the The King of Good Times, decamped from India. Incidentally 9th December is also the World Anti Corruption Day. I am sure this these two, the birthday and the Anti Corruption Day, are unconnected events.

  8. Simkple! Because the Congress party is for the benefit only of the corrupt relics of the dynasty and their cronies and partners in corruption!

  9. The CONGRASS outreach was a policy of starting fires and playing with life of farmers and upliftment of middlemen and sugar factories of its political henchmen who would create cooperatives and deceive banks and electricity boards of thousands of crores.

    Other than that the outreach was for vote banks of proselytizers who would vote for congrass for it’s anti HINDU activities.

    This outreach is so strong that even now certain communal journalist are still refusing to accept that only now a TRULY DEMOCRATIC SECULAR government has come to POWER.

  10. Why Congress has consistently failed to …………….
    Answer is simple : people now know that it is a corrupt, traitorous, anti-national, anti-Hindu bunch of incompetent rascals who have sold their souls to China, Pakistan and the radicals.

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