As the farmers’ protest against the passage of the agricultural reforms Bills in Parliament rages in parts of Punjab and Haryana, the BJP’s ties with its allies in the two states have come under increasing strain.
It began with Punjab’s Shiromani Akali Dal, the oldest friend of the BJP, recently pulling Harsimrat Kaur Badal out of the Modi ministry. The damage was expected in neighbouring Haryana, too, where the ruling alliance – the BJP and Dushyant Chautala-led Jannayak Janata Party in the Manohar Lal Khattar-led dispensation — has so far managed to pull through even as some JJP MLAs have openly called for a leadership change.
Rohtas Nagura, a political analyst in Haryana, says voting in the state and Punjab is majorly influenced by farmers. “The BJP forced by its own agenda has got the Bills through, though these measures are largely seen as ‘anti-farmer’. The fallout is naturally on its allies whose large support base is farmers,” Nagura said.
In the last year’s polls for the 90-member Assembly, the BJP won 40 seats, JJP 10, Congress 31, one each by INLD and HLP while the rest seven were won by the Independents, who now support the BJP. This year, one seat fell vacant as a Congress MLA died, reducing the Assembly strength to 89 seats.
The JJP has drawn a lot of flak from the farmers opposing the Bills and have called Dushyant Chautala a ‘cheater.’ Dushyant belongs to the once all-powerful Chautala family, and nurses ambition of becoming the CM to bring back the political glory of Chaudhary Devi Lal, his great grandfather, hailed as the greatest farmer leader in the state. Devi Lal also served as the Deputy PM in the VP Singh government
Haryana’s Bharatiya Kisan Union chief Gurnam Singh Chadauni told The Federal that farmers were feeling cheated by Dushyant. “Contrary to promise, he is running away from farmers and supporting the anti-farmer BJP,” he said.
He demanded that Dushyant resign immediately as Harsimrat Kaur Badal has done.
Former Congress CM Bhupender Singh Hooda has said he would participate in his party’s nationwide protests against the ‘anti-farmer’ Bills. His son and Congress leader Depender Singh Hooda has criticized Dushyant for sticking to power and Randeep Singh Surjewala, Congress spokesperson, has accused JJP chief of being more concerned about his deputy chief minister’s post than the welfare of the farmers.
Talking to The Federal, Dushyant said the farmers have misunderstood the Bills and that the Opposition is instigating the farmers. “The Prime Minister has already made it clear that the MSP remain intact. All the doubts will be cleared once mandis (markets) start functioning from October 1.”
However, his own MLAs have started doubting his leadership. Two JJP MLAs — Jogi Ram Sihag and Ram Karan Kala — have participated in the protests organized by farmers. Two other JJP MLAs, Ram Kumar Gautam and Devender Babli, have gone public demanding a change in the party leadership.
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“There is dissatisfaction among the party’s 10 MLAs. They want a change in the party leadership,” said Devender Babli. Gautam also made similar allegations against Dushyant and claimed all JJP MLAs stood with the agitating farmers.
Two BJP leaders, Dharambir Singh and Brijendra Singh, Lok Sabha MPs from Bhiwani and Mahendragarh, respectively, too, have supported the farmers.
Analyst Rohtas Nagura says this could be a golden opportunity for Dushyant Chautala to prove his loyalty towards the farmers. “He risks his political future if Dushyant continues to keep his ties with the BJP.”
Meanwhile, farmers’ organizations in Punjab and Haryana have decided to intensify their protest, saying they will stop trains in Punjab for two days. These organizations have also called for a road blockade starting September 24.