Why has the Congress, the country’s main opposition party, failed to seize the initiative in championing the cause of the Indian farming community, which is in the throes of a crisis?
Some 208 different farmers’ organisations from all over the country are to hold what could be the biggest protest against the government’s farming policies, on November 29 and 30 in New Delhi.
21 prominent parties have confirmed their participation in this protest march and rally which will press Parliament to pass two bills, but the Congress, Samajwadi and Bahujan Samaj parties have yet to respond.
According to VM Singh, convener of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Committee under whose aegis the farming community is organising the march and rally, ‘We have been trying in vain to contact the above three parties, and are disappointed by their failure to respond.’
Singh added, ‘Quite frankly we are not very hopeful about hearing from the BSP because no one knows Mayawati’s mind. But we fail to understand why the Congress and the Samajwadi Party are not responding to us.’
The Janata Dal (United) and the Shiv Sena, both part of the governing National Democratic Alliance, have assured the AIKSC they will send representatives to the rally. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has deputed senior party leader and MP, KC Tyagi to attend the protest. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswami have also confirmed their participation.
Singh said, ‘Our main demand is that Prime Minister Modi should fulfil his poll commitment and implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission in full.’
PM Modi has repeatedly misled the country by saying the government has already implemented the recommendations of this commission but this is not true, Singh emphasised.
‘We want Mr Modi to convene a special session of Parliament and pass a private member’s bill pertaining to all the demands raised by the farming community. If the Swaminathan Commission recommendations are being implemented as the government claims, there should not be any hesitation in passing such a bill which covers all the Commission’s recommendations.’
On the other hand, members of the above Kisan Sangharsh Committee in Uttar Pradesh are deeply alarmed by what they describe as the diversionary tactics of the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh, which according to them, is constantly misleading farmers by giving false assurances, especially regarding the dues of sugarcane farmers. Its president Dharampal said, ‘We fear the Yogi government will try its best in ensuring that the Kisan March in Delhi does not succeed.’
Dharampal added, ‘We are organising bhaichara (brotherhood) meetings in every village in UP to spread awareness among farmers regarding the immediate threat to their unity and to the farmers’ cause, which appears in the garb of the Ayodhya temple agitation, being intensified by saffron groups under Yogi Adityanath, purely with the intention of diverting the common people from the real issues of hunger, unemployment and survival, which they are currently facing.’
This, he claimed, was a unique initiative as no political party had ever tried to confront communal polarisation in such an organised manner at the grassroots level.
Dharampal went on to say that the AIKSC ‘is not dependent on political parties because our experiences shows they are disinterested in the real issues of the common man and are not prepared to take any substantive steps in solving them.’
‘We are already receiving a very heartening response to our bhaichara meetings in villages because people especially in villages are aware that communal and polarisation issues will never bring relief to them and are only tools for exploiting our sentiments,’ he said.
‘Our month-long bhaichara meetings will culminate in Bulandshahr on December 19 where we will hold a commemoration meeting to mark the martyrs’ day of the Kakori Case, in which Hindus and Muslims jointly raised the banner of revolt against the British Raj,’ he added.
The commemoration meeting is to be presided over by former Lok Sabha MP and noted social activist Subhashini Ali of the CPI–M, who is in fact playing a lead role in organising these Bhaichara meetings all over the state.
Several important functionaries of the scheduled Kisan March told this writer that the media, especially the electronic media, is trying its best ‘to ignore our historic march, and we are depending solely on the social media to highlight it.’
Despite roadblocks placed by different state governments, the organisers are very hopeful that the proposed Kisan March will, for the first time, bring all stakeholders connected with farming issues together on a single platform.