Farmers’ protest spells trouble for Khattar govt in Haryana

While the BJP government is safe for now, its alliance partner JJP, under the Chautalas, isn’t amused with the Centre’s stand on farm laws

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s venue was vandalised and his cavalcade was forced back with black flags shown in Ambala recently.

The raging farmers’ protest in Delhi has put the one-year-old Manohar Lal Khattar government in Haryana in a fix. An independent MLA has withdrawn support demanding justice for farmers while BJP’s alliance partner Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), headed by Dushyant Chautala, is openly supporting farmers’ demand for guaranteed minimum support price (MSP). The Modi administration’s adamant stand on three new farm laws may have an unexpected consequence as the Khattar government eagerly awaits an early resolution to the week-long farmers’ crisis.

The Khattar government is safe for now. In the 90-member Assembly, the BJP government still 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.

On Monday, independent MLA from Dadri (Haryana) Sombir Sangwan resigned as chairman of the Livestock Development Board on Monday. A day later, he withdrew his support to the government. Sangwan wrote a letter to Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar saying he has withdrawn support “due to the government’s anti-farmer policies”. Sangwan further said, “I cannot support an anti-farmer government which is involved in wrongful activities against the farmers.”

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Deputy chief minister of Haryana and JJP member Dushyant Chautala has openly come out against the farm laws. Ajay Chautala, a former MP and father of Dushyant, said, “The Centre should consider the demands of farmers. A unanimous solution should be found quickly to put an end to farmers’ distress. The Union government should also consider including Minimum Support Price (MSP) in the Act. What is the problem in adding MSP to the Act when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and agricultural minister Narendra Singh Tomar have promised that MSP will continue?”

All the 10 MLAs of JJP have also come in the support of farmers. Amarjeet Dhandha, a JJP legislator from Julana in Jind district, told ‘The Federal’ that he is in complete support of farmers. “The Union government must put MSP guarantee in the Act. I am a farmer and I support their cause.”

Another JJP legislator Ramkumar Gautam said the farmers’ protest is justified since MSP is the maximum price they fetch for their produce. “No private company pays more than MSP, which acts as a benchmark for negotiation for farmers. Hence, MSP must be written in the Act.”

JJP legislator Ram Karan Kala from Shahbad in Kurukshetra district, who actively participated in farmers’ protest, said the government “should act quickly so that the protest does not turn into an agitation”.

Kala said the JJP is in talks with the Haryana government. “We will make sure that the demands of farmers are met. JJP stands strong with the farmers,” he added. When asked about the future of JJP-BJP alliance, all MLAs said they will follow the official party line decided by their party leadership.

Deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala was not available for comments.

Also read: Shed arrogance, give justice to farmers: Rahul Gandhi tells govt

Independent MLAs, supporting the BJP government, too have sided with the farmers. Nayanpal Rawat, an independent legislator from Prithla in Palwal district, said, “At no cost, the farmer should suffer and if there is something against the farmers in the Act, it should be taken back by the Union government.”

Randhir Gollen, an independent MLA from Pundri in Kaithal district, said, “I am a farmer first. I support my farmers in this protest and want the Central government to act on the demands of farmers as soon as possible.” When asked if he has thought of withdrawing support to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in Haryana, Gollen said, “I can do it for my farmers…, but pulling out my support will not help as the Union government has passed the bill and they can only amend it now. I recommend the Union government give farmers what they want.”

Also read: Farm bills: BJP’s Haryana ally Dushyant Chautala under pressure to quit

Balraj Kundu, an independent MLA from Meham in Rohtak, who had earlier withdrawn support to the government on the issue of corruption, said, “Farmers are the biggest nationalists and whoever is not supporting them is the biggest anti-national, be it the BJP or the JJP.”

The JJP is under pressure from its voters, mostly farmers, who had called Dushyant Chautala a ‘cheater’ for not standing with them. Dushyant belongs to the once all-powerful Chautala family, and has an ambition of becoming the CM and bringing back the political glory of Chaudhary Devi Lal, his great grandfather, who was hailed as the greatest farmer leader in the state. Devi Lal also served as the Deputy PM in the VP Singh government. Dushyant’s grandfather Om Prakash Chautala too was the chief minister of Haryana.

Haryana’s Bharatiya Kisan Union chief Gurnam Singh Chadauni earlier told The Federal that farmers were feeling cheated by Dushyant. “Contrary to the promise they made, he (Dushyant) is running away from farmers and supporting the anti-farmer BJP,” he said.

The split in NDA became apparent with Punjab’s Shiromani Akali Dal, the oldest friend of BJP, pulling Harsimrat Kaur Badal out of the Modi ministry. On Monday, Rajasthan based Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) also said that they will rethink their ties with NDA if the new farm laws were not scrapped.

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