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As PM Campaigns, Punjab Farmers Not Letting BJP Forget They Were Not Allowed to Enter Delhi

No matter which government comes to power, farmer unions will continue their agitation till their demands are met, said a farmer leader at the rally.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's public meeting in Patiala, Punjab. Photo: YouTube

Patiala (Punjab): As Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a fierce broadside against the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party at his first rally in Punjab, there was little to indicate that there were fireworks taking place elsewhere, at the highway leading to Patiala.

Farmer unions from Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan that had congregated at the Punjab-Haryana border at Shambhu marched towards the venue where they were stopped at the toll gates some 7 kilometres away.

In a 45-minute long speech, Modi, wearing a saffron turban, attacked the Congress and AAP, calling chief minister Bhagwat Mann a ‘chief minister on paper,’ bowing to the diktat of the “Delhi Durbar”.

The international furore over the failed assassination bid over Khalistan separatist leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun and the killing of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar notwithstanding, Modi repeated his favourite line which he has skipped of late at his rallies – “Ghar mein ghus kar maarenge…”

The Khalistan issue doesn’t have much resonance in Punjab, which is why the graffiti appearing on the wall near the rally venue on Wednesday was being downplayed as mischief by those looking to test the waters.

There was a seven-layer security cordon with thousands of police and paramilitary personnel deployed for the prime minister’s hour-long visit to the state. The state goes to the polls in the last phase on June 1 for 13 Lok Sabha seats in what has turned out to be a four-cornered contest with the traditional ally, the Shiromani Akali Dal, which had parted ways with the BJP over the farm Bills. The prime minister will hold two more rallies in Gurdaspur and Jalandhar.

Oblivious to the farmers’ agitation for over 100 days now, the prime minister spoke with a somewhat straight face about all that his government had done for the upkeep of this community. “We lifted a record amount of foodgrain from this state,” he said. “The MSP on foodgrain has increased 2.5 times. Every farmer has been given Rs 30,000 under the PM Kisan Nidhi scheme.”

While the Ram temple isn’t a significant issue in Punjab, Modi seemed to be addressing constituents in Delhi and elsewhere, who are going to the polls in the sixth phase, when he stated that people should vote for a government that brings Ram to the people.

However, at the Patiala highway toll plaza blocked by protestors, farmers were contemptuous of the prime minister’s claim. They jeered at the chopper carrying the prime minister to the venue, raising flags and shouting slogans.

Speaking to The Wire, Sarvan Singh Pandher of the Kisan Mukti Morcha said, “We have no intention of disrupting the prime minister’s rally, breaking barricades. All that we want to do is question him. We are even happy talking to his emissary who will relay our message to him.” He said no matter which government comes to power, they will continue their agitation till their demands are met.

There’s widespread anger across Punjab over only one major issue: the prime minister rescinded on his promise to enact laws guaranteeing a minimum support price for 24 crops, as recommended by the M.S. Swaminathan Committee. Additionally, he reneged on promises to waive farmers’ loans, provide a monthly pension, withdraw cases lodged against them during the first agitation in 2021-22, and deliver justice for those who died in the agitation.

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