March 17, 2021 5:16:34 am
For former MP and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) vice-president Jayant Chaudhary tells The Indian Express that the ongoing farmers’ protest at Delhi borders against the three farm laws has come as a godsend opportunity for the revival of his party, which was numerically been reduced to zero in the UP Assembly and Lok Sabha in the aftermath of the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.
Since February 5, the 42 -year-old graduate from the London School of Economics and Political Science has addressed over 25 kisan mahapanchayats not only in west UP villages, but also in towns in the eastern parts of the state. Here are the excerpts of the interview:
The farmers are on the streets for over the last three months and the government is yet to resolve the issue. How do you see the present impasse as compared to other agitations, including students’ unrest in JNU and anti-CAA protest?
I think that the agrarian crisis is logically a very big issue (as compared to the other issues faced by the government so far). It must be discussed, debated and should become the prime focus of the government and also for the Opposition parties. Apart from the general agrarian distress, which had been a feature of the Indian polity of the last few decades, the present government’s obstinacy in introducing the so-called agricultural reform laws has further added fuel to the fire. This agitation is very strong and has a deeper connect with the people in the hinterland.
We have to understand that unlike any other political constituency such as the students or unemployed people or other sections of the society, the farmers have very deep roots in the society and they are a very influential vote bank also.
For the RLD, the farmers’ movement on Dehli borders has come as a political panacea for the party, which was reduced to a non-entity in the Parliament and also in the UP Assembly where its lone MLA had deserted it in 2017. Do you think that your efforts will reap dividends?
I completely agree as I can see jubilation among our cadres (after the farmers’ movement started) and the protest having an impact. Our workers are sensing that the political ground is shifting. In the last few elections, the voters had other issues in mind as they had thought that whichever government comes to power, governance for them will be equal with respect to farmers and agrarian policies. No one had estimated that such a massive earthquake will come in this form, in which the government has proceeded in changing the farm laws.
The UP Assembly elections are still far, as they are scheduled next year. Will the farmers’ movement bring about the desired political result for the non-BJP parties by 2022?
Now, everyone has been forced to rethink as a result of which a shift in the voters’ mind has also happened. The farmers’ issue is being debated in the mainstream and media, and has become the main thrust of the politics. In that sense, I think that RLD is definitely going to gain from this shift in voters’ mind.
Do you agree that the Muzaffarnagar riots have dealt a major political blow to your support base in western UP? But with things changing, will RLD gain from the farmers’ movement?
Humare bas me woh Hindu-Muslim aur woh jhagde nahi hai (The RLD cannot be a part of the differences between Hindus and Muslims). That is not the pitch on which we can bat. But now things are changing. The RLD or earlier the Lok Dal (formed by the late prime minister and his grandfather Chaudhary Charan Singh) had a very wide support base, which went way beyond caste, communalism and regions. Now, regaining that support base cannot happen overnight… Farmers from all over the country are now putting up Chaudhary saheb’s (Charan Singh) stickers, posters and images of the farmers’ movement have revived. I am happy that at least the today’s youth in our country, whether they are with the RLD or not, are remembering Chaudhary Charan Singh and are identifying with him.
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