For the best experience, open
on your mobile browser or Download our App.

BJP in Tight Spot Over Fresh Round of Farmers Protest, Reconciliation With Akali Dal on Back Burner

As per poll observers, the biggest setback for BJP is the pause on talks for a potential alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal. 
Farmers and workers' protest in Punjab on November 27, 2023. Photo: X (Twitter)/@mishra_surjya

Chandigarh: At a time when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was trying to regain electoral support in Punjab after the farmers protest in 2020, another round of farmers’ protest has increased its worries ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha election.

The recent crackdown by the BJP-led Haryana government to prevent farmers from reaching Delhi, followed by the death of a young farmer, Shubhkaran Singh, has only worsened the situation for the party which, until recently, was confident of performing well on Punjab’s 13 Lok Sabha seats.

As per poll observers, the biggest setback for BJP is the pause on talks for a potential alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal.

The Akali Dal, which primarily thrives on rural vote bank, was forced to break ties with the BJP after the latter passed passed three central farm laws in 2020, which farmers saw a direct dilution of minimum support price (MSP) system in the country.

This triggered the protest among Punjab’s peasantry, as well as farmers of other states, who had to camp on Delhi borders for over a year before the Union government withdrew the bills.

In the aftermath of the protest, the BJP secured just a little over 6% of the votes during the 2022 Punjab Assembly polls, while the performance of the Akali Dal also hit an all-time low.

In the two Lok Sabha by-polls held since then, the BJP candidates had to forfeit their security deposit – a clear sign of party’s unpopularity in the state it once ruled in alliance with the Akali Dal.

With no apparent sign of revival for the Akali Dal, both sides had begun talks of rekindling their alliance for mutual survival with Union home minister Amit Shah recently dropping a hint that talks were on with SAD.

Just when both the parties thought that the ghost of the 2020 farmers protest was behind them and they could revive their tried and tested urban-rural vote bank combination, another round of farm protest has created fresh hurdles in their reconciliation.

This is evident from the current posturing of Akali Dal, which has completely tilted towards the cause of farmers, their core base, since the Delhi Chalo demonstration began on February 13.

Akali Dal leaders have been attacking both BJP as well as Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) governments, in Haryana and Punjab respectively, over the ongoing protests currently stuck at Punjab-Haryana borders in Shambhu and Khanari.

While five farmers have died so far, nearly 200 have been injured in clashes with Haryana police which is heavily guarding the state borders to prevent farmers from reaching Delhi.

Political analyst Pramod Kumar told The Wire that although the alliance is very important for the political survival of both BJP and SAD in Punjab, the possibility of such alliance looks difficult at the moment. The parties will only be able to join hands if the protest ends or taken to a logical conclusion. Whether or not it this will happen depends upon future negotiations between the Union government and the protesting farmers, he added.

As per information, talks between the Union government and farmers are on hold ever since the death of Shubkaran Singh last week.

Both sides held four round of talks but failed to break a deadlock on one key demand regarding an MSP guarantee law.

Union agriculture minister Arjun Munda recently invited farmer leaders for another round of talks but there is no response from the farmers’ side yet.

The protest has also been paused till February 29 in wake of Singh’s death. Sarwan Singh Pandher and Jagjit Dallewal, who are leading the protest, told the media on Saturday that they would decide their next course of action during a common meeting with all farmer unions on February 28.

Punjab BJP leaders break silence 

Previously silent on the matter, Punjab BJP leaders have now begun voicing their support for an early resolution between farmers and the Union government. They also criticised the Haryana police’s action on protesting farmers.

Punjab BJP chief Sunil Jakhar condemned Singh’s death and even demanded through investigation via a post on Facebook on Friday. He asked for the “governments and security forces to observe restraints and sensitivity to allow peaceful protests”, which many see as an indirect attack on his own party’s government in Haryana.

Jakhar, who himself met Union ministers regarding possible resolution of farmers’ issues, said demands raised by farmers are of very serious nature and both sides must resolve it through dialogue.

At the same time, he criticised the AAP government in Punjab, asserting that talks between the Union government and the farmers faced couldn’t be completed due to the Punjab chief minister’ Bhagwant Mann’s attempts to thwart the discussions for political gains.

Mann, it is learnt, had attended all meetings held between the Union government and farmer leaders in Chandigarh over the past two weeks.

Besides Jakhar, another state BJP leader and former Punjab chief minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, criticised the excessive use of force by the Haryana police in dealing with farmers and even urged chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar to take strict action against the guilty policemen.

Singh also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week and said that he had a detailed discussion with him while expressing confidence that the farmers’ issues will be resolved very soon.

Make a contribution to Independent Journalism
facebook twitter