The ongoing farmer agitation has made it difficult for the ministers and MLAs of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) to hold public meetings anywhere in Haryana. Where ever they go, farmers and their families welcome them with black flags. The vehicles of leaders from the two parties are chased and helipads are damaged.
The recent incident in Karnal where protesters damaged the helipad during Chief Minister Manoharlal Khattar’s public event has the government worried, which was apparently prepared for a backlash, but couldn’t prevent the attack.
While the protests have been peaceful in Punjab so far, the state of Haryana reported several cases of violence. Experts say the farmers of Haryana are in much more distress and hence their anger is spilling out by way of acts of vandalism.
Besides, farmers are an influential lot in the state. As per the 2011 Census, about 45 percent population in Haryana is engaged in agriculture.
Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) shows that about 25 percent of Haryana’s workforce was jobless at the end of 2019. “A majority of unemployed youth in Haryana are the children of farmers. In numbers, we may say 45 percent are farmers, but actually the number swells to 70 percent if we add their children to the list. Of them, 52 percent work parallel in other sectors. They do menial jobs to make the two ends meet since farming does not give them enough money. In the end, they are indeed farmers. So, a total of 80 percent people are directly or indirectly engaged in farming in Haryana,” said Baljeet Singh, an economics professor at Maharishi Dayanand University in Rohtak.
Farm laws created political instability
In the 90-member Haryana Assembly, the BJP-JJP government has 56 MLAs (41 from BJP, 10 from JJP). In addition, the government has the support of four independents and Gopal Kanda from Haryana Lokhit Party. Congress has 31 and Indian National Lok Dal has one MLA.
In recent times, over 130 khap panchayats and nearly 6,000 panchayats in the state have boycotted Dushyant Singh Chautala’s JJP and Manoharlal Khattar’s BJP. The farmers are angry at the BJP-led government over the three farm laws. The JJP is the worst affected because a majority of its voters belong to the farmer community. JJP MLAs have been under tremendous pressure to quit the government in support of farmers.
Satpal Singh, a panchayat member from Julana in Jind district, said, “We voted for JJP thinking they will stand by farmers, but Dushyant is nothing more than a cheater. We have boycotted them entirely but besides the boycott, we will ensure that the JJP pulls back its support to the BJP so that the government falls and fresh elections are held.”
Rohtas Nagura, a political analyst based out of Haryana, told The Federal that the act of vandalism at the CM’s venue in Karnal sends a clear message: the farmers have boycotted the government completely. “The farmers realize their strength and know very well that the Haryana government may fall because of their protest and they are trying their best for that to happen,” Nagura said.
“The BJP government is under the false impression that the farmer’s protest is weakening with time, but it is wrong. Farmer leaders, panchayats and khap panchayats have boycotted the BJP-JJP alliance. The CM was not allowed to hold a program in his own constituency. This is a tight slap on the face of police and BJP as well,” he added.
Chandra Prakash Malik, another political analyst, said the JJP voters were never happy with Chautala for joining hands with BJP. “JJP’s vote bank is in rural areas, which mostly comprises farmers. It may have been Dushyant Chautala’s compulsion to support the BJP government at that time. The Chautala family had been out of power in Haryana for almost a decade and a half. Dushyant had a chance to strengthen his party by joining the Khattar government and he utilised that opportunity,” Malik said.
However, Chautala supporters did not like he supporting the BJP. As a consequence, the alliance lost the by-election in Baroda assembly last year and all the seats in the recent municipal elections. “Dushyant did not make any comments in support of farmers while they were asking for his resignation. This made the farmers really angry,” Malik added.
Maligning the farmers
The farmer community of Haryana was further angered when a section of media and thinkers linked the protests against farm laws to the Khalistan movement of Punjab.
Parmod Singh, a farmer based out of Hisar, said, “We have sent our brothers to the Armed Forces, but now we are labelled anti-nationals. This is a ploy of the government to malign our protest, but it won’t work here. How can the government link us to Pakistan? We will uproot this government now.”
According to experts, the strategy of sending farmers to the minister has been suggested by Chief Minister Khattar himself, who has given a statement related to Khalistan regarding the movement. When the Union government was communicating with farmers, the BJP leaders of Haryana was targeting farmers. Haryana BJP leader JP Dalal had even gone to the extent of saying that the “farmer’s movement is sponsored by China and Pakistan”.
Raghuvir Malik, a sociologist based out of Haryana, said the BJP used bad words for farmers of Haryana. “They (BJP leaders) should know the people of Haryana die for self-respect. The people of Haryana are extremely patriotic and that is why you find an army man in every home here. The BJP maligned them and now the farmers of Haryana are extremely disturbed, angry and indulging in acts of violence,” Raghuvir Malik said.
“When it comes to JJP, farmers feel cheated. In Haryana, trust is the key. JJP has broken the trust of the people multiple times. They also used the name of Devilal in the elections, who is hailed as the greatest farmer leader in Haryana, but did not utter a single word in the support of farmers. Now people don’t trust the JJP at all,” he added.
Haryana BJP-JJP leaders meet Shah
After protesting farmers ransacked the venue of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s “kisan mahapanchayat” in Karnal, top leaders of BJP-JJP alliance, including Khattar and Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala, met Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday to discuss the political scenario in the state.
Dushyant also held a meeting with JJP MLAs at his farmhouse in Delhi. The exercise was seen as an attempt to keep the flock of MLAs in the alliance together amid increasing pressure over them to quit the alliance.
This came after former Haryana CM Bhupinder Hooda had said several MLAs of the ruling combine are on the verge of quitting their respective parties (BJP and JJP).
“The Supreme Court has put a stay on the farm laws and formed a committee to take it forward. The events on January 26 should go well as it’s a national festival. Farmers had assured at a press conference that their protest will be peaceful. We hope they will call off the agitation and go back home. The political situation (in Haryana) is alright. Our Government is going on strong and we will complete the 5-year tenure,” said Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar after meeting Union Home Minister Amit Shah.