By Dr. Gyan Pathak
Much water has flowed down the Yamuna in one year after September 27, 2020, when the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind had given his assent to Modi’s three controversial farm laws. To mark one year of the assent, the Bharat Bandh observed on September 27, 2021, has now clearly showed how the farmers’ agitation began in Punjab has now spread almost all parts of the country, influencing the national and regional politics, changing the political dimension, and restablishing unprecedented farmers-workers unity after decades.
Observance of Bharat Bandh on the call of Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) has clearly shown that the BJP’s contention, which the party wanted the people to believe, that the farmers’ agitation does not have support from farmers across the country, was totally false. The reality is, not only farmers but also workers, and the people from all walks of life have supported the agitating farmers. Almost all major non-BJP national and regional political parties have given their support and some of them even participated in the demonstrations. Even some state governments ruled by the non-BJP political parties gave their full support.
Not only the 40 farmers unions under the umbrella of agitating SKM, but also many more other farmers union around 500 in the country participated in the all India strike, and demonstrated against the three farm laws. One of the most important aspects is that a large number of workers’ organizations from non-agriculture sector have also participated. As many as 15 major central and regional trade unions took part in the strike and demonstrations apart from many others smaller workers’ unions. The occasion has established and unprecedented unity among farmers and workers for the first time in decades, which is sure to have pan-India political ramifications. The Bandh had support of varied sections of society, including students union, All India Lawyer’s Union, transport unions, All India Bank Officers’ confederation, banks employees unions, insurance employees unions, and traders unions etc.
Several state governments had lent their support to the all India strike call. Not only the government of Punjab, where the agitation originated after the three farm laws was passed in the Parliament of India in early September, but also Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala in southern India, Chhattisgarh from the central India, Odisha and Jharkhand from the eastern India had supported the Bharat Bandh protest. The bus services of the Odisha State Road Transport Corporation remained suspended. Andhra Pradesh government had also suspended the APSRTC bus services. Ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu, and LDF in Kerala had called for total strike in support of farmers agitation.
As for the non-BJP political parties are concerned, the India National Congress has supported the protesting farmers across the country. The other major political parties supporting the all India strike were Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, All India Forward Bloc, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Aam Aadmi Party, Samajwadi Party, Telugu Desam Party, Janata Dal (Secular), Bahujan Samaj Party, Nationalist Congress Party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, SAD-Sanyukt, Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Swaraj India etc.
In the poll bound states especially in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, where the farmers have been on the Mission 2022 to defeat or oust the BJP, all major non-BJP, political parties participated in the strike and the protest demonstrations, which included Congress, SP, BSP, AAP, and SAD. BJP has much on stake in Uttar Pradesh and the farmers’ oust Modi, oust BJP mission has already escalated from western Uttar Pradesh to eastern regions. A poll survey had predicted loss of 62 seats for BJP even it improves 0.4 per cent of votes. The state also sends 80 seats from the state to the Lok Sabha, and hence political stakes are high also for the BJP’s national politics. Moreover, unity among the farmers, has dampened the hope of the political parties of exploiting the communal or caste faultline.
In other states, such as in Bihar, the RJD which has the largest number of seats in the state assembly but sitting in opposition, participated in the nationwide strike and demonstrations. With participation of the opposition political parties the Congress and JD(S) in Karnataka, all the four states of southern India, have witnessed protest demonstrations. In Odisha, the ruling BJD is also supporting the farmers cause, and had actually participated in the general strike by suspended state bus service.
Farmers had also given the call for all India strike earlier, but this time it is quite different, stronger, aggressive, and widened – geographically, demographically, and politically. Their unity within, and with workers, are changing the contours of politics away from communalism and casteism. It may prove the beginning of a new era of defining politics not only regionally in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh, but also nationally, as we have witnessed in several states during all India strike protests. (IPA Service)