With the Punjab bandh having drawn a widespread response in the state from not only the farming community but also from traders and allied businesses which have been the traditional vote bank of the BJP, the party stands at crossroads especially as it’s alliance partner, SAD, is distancing itself from it with each passing day.
“We had left the job of convincing the farmers to our alliance partner, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), but now we will have to do this task ourselves,” says former Union Minister and state BJP president Vijay Sampla on the way forward for BJP in Punjab in wake of the farmers’ agitation in the state against agriculture Bills.
Farmers unions have been giving calls for the boycott of BJP leaders in the villages and there are reports that BJP supporters in towns and villages are being asked to openly declare cutting ties with the party over the agriculture Bills.
Responding to a question on why BJP was late in addressing the concerns of the farmers and the setback that the party might suffer to its vote bank in the state in view of the farming-business ecosystem which drives many trades, Sampla said that it was due to Covid-19 restrictions that the party could not hold as many physical meetings as it would have wanted to in order to address the issues regarding agriculture ordinances and bills.
“It is not correct to say that no effort was made on part of the state unit. I too have gone around and addressed two meetings and have held press conferences. But we had left the task of reaching out to the farmers to our alliance partners. It may have been a mistake, but we thought it was better to let them handle that aspect. Now, we will have to start from zero and reach out to the farmers in villages,” said Sampla.
When asked about the calls of boycott being given in villages for BJP and its leaders, the former Union minister said that the farmers were being mislead by parties like Congress.
“Kisaan bhole ne. Ohna nu bargla rahi hai Congress. Jadon Bhakra dam baneya si odom Communists ne kisaana nu uksaya si ke sarkar paani bichon bijli kade ke phoka paani supply kar rahi hai. Kisana nu ajj vee issey tarah gumrah keeta jaa reha hai (Farmers are simpletons. They are being mislead by the Congress. When Bhakra dam was constructed the Communists had caused unrest among farmers by saying that the government was supplying worthless water by taking out electricity from it. The farmers are being mislead today in the same way),” said Sampla.
The former state BJP chief said that till date not one political leader opposing the Bills has been able to show which clause was against the farmers.
“A statement has been made by the concerned minister that MSP will not be withdrawn, the Prime Minister has endorsed the statement, where is there any scope for any doubt. The MSP was never part of any legislation in any case,” he said.
When asked if BJP was hampered by the fact that it’s state president Ashwani Sharma was from Pathankot, an area where the party already had a strong voter base in adjoining constituencies and that the need was to have a leader from Malwa or Doaba to connect with the farmers, Sampla said this was not necessarily true.
“We have had Kamal Sharma who belonged to Ferozepur as state BJP chief, we had Brij Lal Rinwa ji who belonged to the border areas along Rajasthan so if the present president is from Pathankot it really does not matter. He was been the president once before too,” he said.
Answering a question about the rift between SAD and BJP over the agriculture Bills issue, Sampla said that SAD may have had to take a different stand due to political compulsions.
“It may be the case that they had to do this to protect their voter base. These are all political moves,” he said.
The Punjab bandh on Friday saw total support from the business community, a traditional BJP voter base, in the state with the traders downing their shutters in support of the farmers. Farm union leaders say that they have full support of the traders as their economic ties are dependent upon each other and that BJP will suffer severe jolt in its electoral quest in 2022 in case the agriculture bills were not withdrawn.
Reacting to these developments, national secretary of the BJP, Tarun Chugh, said that the protests were engineered by Capt Amarinder Singh, because he has nothing to show in his three and a half years in power.
“Just let the coronavirus pandemic abate a little, we will reach throughout the state and put the farmers’ fears to rest. In fact, this will happen on its own when in October the farmers see the procurement of paddy take place smoothly and they get the MSP for it. This will also happen in the wheat crop next year and soon the farmers will realise that Congress was befooling them,” he said.
Chugh added that the Modi government was committed to doubling the income of the farmers and this will happen come what may.
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