Chandigarh, Feb 3 : From the heart of Haryana’s Jat-dominated Jind district, protesting farmers led by Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait on Wednesday sent out a strong signal to the BJP government in the state, while infusing new energy into the protests against the three farm laws after the Republic Day violence in the national capital.
Attending the Kisan ‘Mahapanchayat’ which saw massive crowds from several villages of Jind and its adjoining districts, Tikait, whose tears became the elixir to revive a thinning protest, said, “Just as you don’t change the sarpanch midway, we will not change the leadership in the middle of the agitation.”
He was categorically clear in saying that the Singhu border protest site would remain central to the agitation.
The meeting aimed to gather support for the farmers’ agitation against the Centre’s new farm laws. A day earlier, Tikait claimed that the farmers will organise a pan-country tractor rally of 40 lakh tractors if the union government fails to listen to their demands by October.
This was the second panchayat post-January 26. Earlier, massive crowds gathered at ‘Mahapanchayat’ in west UP’s Muzaffarnagar town in support of Tikait, organised by his brother Naresh Tikait.
Political observers believe holding the ‘mahapanchayat’ in Jind district is also a clear signal to the Manohar Lal Khattar-led Haryana government that the farmers’ agitation has been swelling against the farm laws.
“Also, the ‘mahapanchayat’ is an ultimatum for the state government’s crucial alliance partner JJP (Jannayak Janta Party) that came into existence in its maiden Assembly polls by wooing the Jats, who prominently belong to the farming community, but have maintained a stoic silence over revoking the farm laws,” an observer told IANS.
Interestingly, JJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala’s constituency Uchana Kalan is located in Jind district.
In a post-electoral alliance, the JJP has extended support to the BJP, which won 40 seats, six short of the majority mark.
Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala is the great grandson of former Deputy Prime Minister and the tallest Jat leader, late Devi Lal, whose Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) has been politically marginalised in the 2019 Assembly election.
However, the lone legislator of the INLD, Abhay Singh Chautala, last week resigned from the Assembly over the farm laws and registration of cases against farmer leaders for the violence in Delhi. Abhay Chautala is the grandson of Devi Lal, and Dushyant’s uncle.
Kandela ‘khap’ President Tek Ram, the organiser of the ‘mahapanchayat’, told the media that besides demanding the repeal of the farm laws, the resolution that was adopted demanded that the government ensure the farmers get minimum support price (MSP) for their crops, withdrawal of cases against farmers booked for violence on Republic Day in Delhi, waiving of loans of the farmers and implementation of the Swaminathan Commission recommendations.
It also called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah to hold talks with the farmer unions.
To gather support and build momentum for the farmers’ agitation, Tikait reached Kandela village near here to address the ‘mahapanchayat’ where he was given a rousing welcome. Tikait was accompanied by Haryana BKU President Gurnam Singh Chaduni and Punjab BKU President Balbir Singh Rajewal.
Tikait and other farmer union leaders also had a narrow escape as the stage collapsed with the leaders on it.
The ‘mahapanchayat’, the first in the state, was organised at Kandela village sports stadium. It was organised by several ‘khap’ or community courts leaders to discuss the future of the ongoing farmers’ protests.
Addressing the gathering, Tikait, showing his aggressive posture, said: “When the ruler is afraid, he does fortification,” indicating his tough posture over barricades and wire fencing placed at Delhi borders to keep farmers from entering the national capital during their protests.
He said a campaign would be carried out from village to village in Haryana till February 10 to gather momentum against the agitation.
A day before attending the ‘mahapanchayat’, Tikait said the farmers protesting against the three farm laws will take out a pan-India tractor rally if the government doesn’t listen to them.
In the past too, Kandela, the venue of the ‘mahapanchayat’, has been a centre of farmers’ agitation. The farmers had launched an agitation from Kandela in 2002, demanding waiver of electricity dues.
Interestingly, after the Delhi violence on Republic Day, the farmers’ agitation has shifted from Singhu and Tikri, where Punjab unions are camping, to Ghazipur where Tikait is holding fort.
In Haryana politics, Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala has been maintaining a stoic silence in public over the issue of farmers, who have been staging protests on the borders of the national capital, demanding revoking of the farm laws for the past 70 days.
The INLD and JJP are primarily rural Jat-centric parties with farmers as their core vote bank. The Jats, a dominant farming community, comprise 28 per cent of Haryana’s population.
Twenty-five Jat leaders, including four Chautalas, were elected to the state Assembly in October 2019.
Coming out openly for the first time with the protesting farmers, JJP national chief and former MP, Ajay Singh Chautala, who is Dushyant’s father and the brother of Abhay Chautala, on December 2, 2020, said the Centre should give a written assurance on MSP to the protesting farmers.
Political observers believe pressure on the JJP within the party to withdraw its support to the state government has been rising as the BJP central leadership has been adopting a tough posture on the three farm laws.
Besides the JJP’s 10 legislators, seven independent MLAs had also extended support to the BJP, helping it reach a tally of 57 in the 90-member Haryana Assembly.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])