Political parties look to change narrative in poll-bound Uttarakhand

The decision of the central government to repeal the three controversial farm laws could provided some reprieve to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttarakhand, where it would be battling with opposition Congress to retain power in next February-March assembly elections, according to political experts and local farm leaders.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Friday, announced a rollback of the three farm laws at the heart of yearlong protests by farmers. Since November last year, farmers have been protesting along Delhi borders against the three farm laws since they were passed by the central government in 2020.

The imposition of three farm laws was a major issue in Udham Singh Nagar and Haridwar districts, which has sizeable Sikh and Punjabi farmer population, and the ruling BJP had been trying to counter the Congress campaign in the districts.

With the BJP getting a cushion against the Congress onslaught, political analysts said that “the decision won’t immediately turn the election tide in favour of ruling BJP, but much will also depend on how the Congress exploit the changed scenario in the state.” They also say that the farmers agitation issue impacts all the nine constituencies of US Nagar district and at least seven of the 11 constituencies of Haridwar district.

Political analyst SMA Kazmi, who has been monitoring the state politics for over two decades, said with the PM Narendra Modi’s announcement, the “opposition Congress lost a potent issue for the elections.”

“Friday’s development is very significant considering the upcoming elections in the state. The repealing of the three controversial farm laws had definitely caused a dent in the Congress campaign as it has now lost a potent issue which it was raising and had planned to play up in the upcoming elections,” said Kazmi.

He said that the party will now have to rethink its strategy on how to exploit the changed scenario now.

“The Congress still has chance to exploit it by going among the farmers and speak about the deaths of their fellow farmers during the agitation against the farm laws. It should raise questions against the BJP… of course lot will depend on how the party is able to exploit the development in its favour because there’s a lot of factionalism inside the party,” said Kazmi.

Kazmi, however, said there may not be “major and immediate” benefit for the BJP.

“If the BJP thinks that it will benefit them in the upcoming polls then they are wrong especially in the US Nagar district which hosts a significant number of Sikhs. It is because the Sikhs won’t forget their demonisation by the BJP leaders who called the farmers Khalistanis, terrorists and other derogatory terms. They will also will also question the BJP on the death of farmers during the agitation,” said Kazmi.

Another political commentator Jai Singh Rawat said the BJP may not gain much.

“It won’t happen that easily because the BJP is now in backfoot. It will be difficult for their leader now to take credit for the repealing of the laws which they were earlier terming beneficial for the farmers. They will definitely have to chalk out a fresh strategy on how to exploit the issue in their favour,” said Rawat.

The farmer leaders welcomed the announcement and said that they won’t end the agitation.

Tejinder Virk, national president of Terai Kisan Union, said, “We welcome the move of Centre to repeal it…It is a result of the ultimate sacrifice made by about 700 farmers during the agitation. However, our agitation won’t end with this as we are still waiting for a solution on other issues including MSP and power supply. We will also wait to end the agitation till the farm laws are repealed in the Parliament. Also, our further move will depend on the meeting of Sanyukt Kisan Morcha on Saturday,” said Virk.

Congress termed the Centre’s move as a “win of Indianness”. “This is has happened due to the struggle of lakhs of farmers and the sacrifices made by about 700 farmers during the agitation. We don’t believe that the government has done it due to the elections. It has done that due to the resilient fight of our farmers,’ said Ganesh Godiyal, Congress state president.

BJP state in charge Dushyant Kumar Gautam said, “He (PM Narendra Modi) had taken decision for the betterment of farmers… but the farmers couldn’t be convinced about the same. So, Modi ji took back the decision and we want to thank him for this decision.”

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Jitendra Kumar

Jitendra Kumar Born on October 10, 1990 an Indian author and activist from Hathras in Uttar Pradesh.