WITH THE farmer unrest in party-ruled Madhya Pradesh taking a violent turn, the BJP, while it blames Opposition Congress for “politicising” the issue, is worried that this agitation is not good news given that Assembly elections are due in 2018. “We know things will be under control soon,” a senior party leader said. But he added that images of farmers killed in the firing in Mandsaur doing the rounds of social media can spell trouble in the hinterland.
According to a senior leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah have already spoken to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. “The protests and the action taken against protesting farmers go against the narrative that the party is trying to create. This is very bad news because the BJP is a party that cares for villages,” the leader said.
Five farmers were shot during Tuesday’s clashes in Mandsaur. Chief Minister Chouhan has appealed the farmers to end the strike, which began on June 1. Farmers are seeking debt relief and an institutionalised mechanism for getting better prices for agricultural produce. Struggling to defend its state government, BJP leaders blamed the Congress and other opposition parties.
Pointing out that MP government has started a series of programmes for farmers in the state, Anoop Mishra, party MP from Morena, said those who want to “topple” the Chouhan government are fuelling this agitation. He also alleged that Gujarat Patidar leader Hardik Patel is creating trouble for the government. Balaghat MP Bodhsingh Bhagat also said that opposition parties in MP are “unnecessarily” creating trouble for Chouhan.
“We are sympathetic to farmers and their issues. Steps are being taken by the state government to address the issues, but the issues should not be politicised,” Union minister Piyush Goyal told reporters. Mishra, who was a state minister for 10 years, also blamed intelligence failure in assessing gravity of the agitation. “State intelligence failed totally. The administration should have had an idea about the intensity of protests,” he told The Indian Express. “After the CM met them, some protesters agreed to end the agitation (and) the administration just believed it. It has resulted in the…unfortunate deaths.”
According to BJP leaders, a further worrying factor is that the agitation, and farmers’ death, took place in a state that has been showcased as example of BJP’s good governance in agriculture. “The state has been our biggest success story in the farming sector; Chouhan was hailed as farmers’ CM. The state is going to the polls next year, and unless things are back under control, it will be damaging for the party,” another leader said.
The BJP is also worried that the government may not be in a position fiscally to fulfill farmers’ demand on loan waiver. Admitting that the UP government’s decision to waive farm loan — an election promise — has “inspired” other states to push for such demands, party leaders said the government would not be in a position to promise them anything as of now.
Goyal indicated as much when he said, “Each state has its own situation, and decisions are taken based on that. Farmers in UP had gone through certain distress for many years. At that point of time, we felt it was necessary to support them.”