A Win-Win Solution

AFTER a year-long protest by the farmers against three controversial laws, Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally announced they would be withdrawn in the upcoming session of Parliament. Modi said the Acts were in the best interests of the nation and targeted to benefit large and small farmers, but it appeared the government had not been able to convince a section of the farmers and therefore, they were being withdrawn. Addressing the nation on the occasion of Gurupurab, the prime minister also said that a committee of state and central representatives, farmers, and experts would be set up to make the minimum support price (MSP) mechanism more transparent and effective. He urged all agitating farmers to “go back to their families and villages” now that their demand had been met.

However, farmers remain skeptical about the government’s decision. The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) said it was good that the Centre has decided to repeal the farm laws but demanded the legislations be formally revoked in the upcoming Winter Session of Parliament. The Morcha also demanded a legal guarantee on Minimum Support Price for crops.  Similarly, the farmer organisations who had been holding the fort at various toll plazas in Punjab have decided to wait till further orders from the SKM to end their protest.

The withdrawal of the laws, however, has come ahead of the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, the bastions of farmers protests. So, the decision is seen as political in nature. The farmers constitute a significant vote bank in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab and with this vote bank alienated by the contentious laws, the BJP’s chances of winning looked dimmer.  There are elections in four other states. This is already charging up the political climate in the country. The home minister Amit Shah on November 12 kicked off his party’s preparations for the elections in Uttar Pradesh from Lucknow by addressing organisational functionaries from across the state.

In 2017, the BJP and its allies had won 325 Assembly seats.  Shah asked the state party unit to work towards an even bigger victory.  He said that the SP, the BSP and the Congress together can’t defeat the BJP. An ABP-CVoter poll has already shown that the BJP will return to power in the UP but not without the party losing over 100 seats it won in the last state elections. But till the time elections are held, the caste-based parties like the SP and the BSP are expected to mount a bigger challenge to the BJP. But by withdrawing the farm laws, the BJP seems to have changed the game. The decision could certainly impact the election outcome in the UP and Punjab. But for now we can only wait and watch.

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