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Explained: Why farmers’ protest is more of a cause for concern for JJP than BJP

Party sources close to Dushyant Chautala told The Indian Express that although he was not making any statements on the farmer agitation, he was in close contact with farmer union leaders regarding the matter.

Written by Varinder Bhatia | Chandigarh | Updated: December 10, 2020 12:25:09 pm
Dushyant Chautala, then Hisar MP, rode a tracktor to Parliament in 2017 to protest against changes in Motor Vehicles Act which, he had claimed, would add to farmers' woes. (Express Archive/Prem Nath Pandey)

For the past 12 days, farmers from across Haryana and neighbouring states are camping on Delhi’s borders and protesting against the Centre’s controversial farm laws. Amid all this, JJP chief and Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala’s silence on the agitation has been quite conspicuous. While people across the state are up in arms against both BJP and JJP and choking the borders of the national capital, Dushyant had gone out to South India for spending “family time”.

Although his younger brother Digvijay and father Ajay Chautala — who is out of Tihar jail on parole — are trying hard to do ‘damage control’ both for the party and Dushyant, the deputy CM continues to remain silent. The Indian Express explains why the ongoing farmer agitation could be more damaging for JJP than BJP.

Is Dushyant’s silence going to harm JJP in the long run?

Although the next Assembly elections in Haryana are scheduled for 2024 and the BJP-JJP alliance believes it has ample time to offer a lot more in the interest of people of the State, it is yet to be seen whether the people of Haryana will forgive and forget. In October, farmers attempted to camp outside Dushyant’s residence in Sirsa, but police did not allow them. They camped at Bhuman Shah Chowk, around 200 metres away from his residence. Although Dushyant said he would welcome farmers if they come to his house, he did not do that. Instead, he came to Chandigarh. He subsequently announced that he had tested positive for Covid-19.

Farmers kept protesting that Dushyant must quit his ministerial berth and support them in their struggle against the Centre’s laws. Instead, Dushyant kept praising the farm legislations and accused the Opposition of misleading farmers. Even till date, when farmers had begun blocking entry-exit to Delhi, Dushyant has not uttered a word since November 26. Party sources, however, told The Indian Express that Dushyant would break his silence only after talks between farmers and the central government conclude. JJP’s other MLAs have however begun to come out in open support of farmers. Sources said there is a possibility that a few of them may quit if the ongoing deadlock between farmers and Union government continues beyond December 9.

Why is Dushyant Chautala remaining silent?

Party sources close to Dushyant Chautala told The Indian Express that although he was not making any statements on the farmer agitation, he was in close contact with farmer union leaders regarding the matter. A senior party leader told this newspaper that since the farmers had gone to Delhi for holding talks with the Union government, the state government did not have much of a role to play in that as the ball was in the Centre’s court. Thus, Dushyant maintained silence and was waiting to come out in the open till a conclusion is reached in the ongoing talks. Meanwhile, Ajay and Digvijay Chautala have been trying to fill his space by showing solidarity with farmers, but neither of the two are part of the government. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram

Why are people of Haryana more angry with JJP than BJP?

Although Manohar Lal Khattar is a native of a village in Rohtak district and has begun his second innings as the state’s CM, but people yet consider him an ‘outsider’, maybe because of his absence from active state politics before 2014. On the other hand, they considered Dushyant, who is an heir of one of the farmers’ tallest leader — Chaudhary Devi Lal — as their own since Dushyant too was part of INLD till 2018. In the 2019 Assembly polls, the mandate of people of Haryana was visibly against BJP. JJP, an 11-month-old party that contested its maiden elections on 87 seats had got 10. An offshoot of the Indian National Lok Dal, JJP had sought people’s votes in the name of Chaudhary Devi Lal and asked people to support them to oust BJP. But when BJP failed to form the government, JJP supported it in a post-poll alliance. The alibi given by JJP was that by being part of the government, they can fulfill the promises that were made to people. But since day 1, the Opposition had been accusing the Dushyant-led JJP of betraying people’s trust.

Former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda says he has been proven right in this ongoing farmer agitation. “Vote kisi ki, support kisi ki – this is what JJP did,” Hooda says. Dushyant’s silence in ongoing farmer agitation has further strengthened the Opposition’s claims that JJP leaders had supported BJP solely with an aim to be in power. JJP’s substantial share of vote bank comes from rural areas – people of which are currently up in arms against it.

Why is JJP under attack, despite fulfilling two big poll-promises?

Before the farmers’ agitation peaked in third week of November, JJP had fulfilled its biggest poll promise – 75 per cent jobs for Haryanvi youths in private sector jobs. On November 6, Vidhan Sabha passed the Bill. JJP scored another point with Vidhan Sabha passing 50 per cent reservation for women in panchayat elections. Various other initiatives that were pushed by JJP soon after forming government were bringing the party a good response from people, until the farmers’ agitation hit the state, putting the state government on the backfoot. After the Baroda bypoll debacle, farmers’ agitation came as another blow to the state government. Dushyant’s repeated attempts to convince farmers on the three legislations further increased their anger. Once the farmers began marching towards Delhi, Dushyant went silent. The only thing he said before that was express hope that the Union government would come out with a positive solution in the interest of farmers on December 9.

Digvijay added that JJP was a farmers’ party and is always standing by them. Attacking JJP more than BJP also suits opposition political parties, especially Congress, because both parties share a substantial chunk of rural votebank, especially from the Jat community. If Congress attacks JJP and pressure is mounted on JJP MLAs to quit, the state government is all set to get destabilised.

Why is JJP’s position fragile in Haryana?

Of the 10 MLAs, two are Dushyant (Uchana constituency) and his mother Naina Chautala (Bhadra constituency). Anoop Dhanak (Uklana), the third MLA, is Dushyant’s father Ajay Chautala’s loyalist. However, the remaining seven have started raising their voices in support of farmers. While one MLA Ram Kumar Gautam (Narnaund) has said that “it would be foolish if Union government does not repeal the three farm legislations”, another Ram Niwas (Narwana) has shown indications that he would resign, if farmers require it. Jogi Ram Sihag (Barwala) and Ram Karan Kala (Shahbad) had already participated in farmers’ agitation in Kurukshetra in September and are again speaking in farmers’ favour.

If the December 9 round of talks between the Union government and farmers fail and the agitation further intensifies, there is a strong possibility that a few of these MLAs may come under immense pressure from their supporters to quit.

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