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Explained Ideas: What will be the impact of farmer protests on Modi government?

Suhas Palshikar writes: Farmers' protest may be bringing a small beginning of normal politics, of negotiation and compromise.

By: New Delhi | Explained Desk | December 11, 2020 10:24:45 am
farmers protest, Suhas Palshikar on farmers protest, Farmers protest India, Modi govt farmers protest, Indian ExpressFarmers listen to a speaker on the middle of an expressway at the site of a protest against new farm laws at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh state border, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (AP Photo: Altaf Qadri)

With the government trying to make concessions, the farmers refusing to budge and awkward voices grumbling about democracy obstructing reforms, is the political narrative set to change? Is the BJP blinking, or will it hit back? Suhas Palshikar, chief editor, ‘Studies in Indian Politics’, explains what the significance of the ongoing farmer protest is for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“For the second December in a row, the Narendra Modi government finds itself in the midst of a protest,” he states.

Last year, the anti-CAA mobilisation could be dubbed as an agitation by Muslims. The failure of non-Muslims to see it as an important issue provided the government an opportunity to give it a suitable label. This December, the farmers are up against the government. It would be a crucial test for non-farmers — first, whether non-farmers appreciate the concerns of farmers, and secondly, whether the farmers’ right to protest is recognised by non-farmers.

Within days of the farmers’ protests, the government began negotiations.

“This is something the present government has seldom done. Therefore, in itself, the negotiations have achieved something very valuable: They have brought back the relevance of the politics of accommodation,” he writes in his opinion piece in The Indian Express. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram

The controversial farm legislation is showcased as “bold reform” — a trait for which the prime minister is famous since his time as chief minister of Gujarat. What he has never been known for is the ability to accept that there can be differences over reforms and these need to be reconciled.

After six adamant years of expelling protest and negotiation from politics, the government had to climb down and begin negotiations. “Therefore,” writes Palshikar, “irrespective of the outcome of the protests and irrespective of which side of the new farm policy one is on, this should be a moment of quiet realisation that policies should not be rammed through by state power alone”.

“In itself, a prime minister agreeing to negotiate is not a shortcoming, but after having built an aura of non-negotiability about his wisdom, a settlement would mean the first step in converting the all-powerful and all-knowing supreme leader into a more routine political player,” he writes.

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