Lok Sabha Election 2019

Farmers’ protests fail to have an impact on outcome

Little traction: A file photo of farmers participating in rally in Mumbai to demand better compensation for drought and transfer of forest rights to tribals.

Little traction: A file photo of farmers participating in rally in Mumbai to demand better compensation for drought and transfer of forest rights to tribals.   | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

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Opposition parties as well as farmer leaders failed to leverage the issue sufficiently as the Balakot strike took centre stage

Despite rallies and mass protests highlighting an agricultural crisis in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, farmers’ issues do not seem to have had much traction with voters in the endgame.

The BJP’s sweep includes key agricultural constituencies such as Kairana in western Uttar Pradesh, where angry sugarcane farmers clamouring over high payment arrears from sugar mills had handed the ruling party a stinging loss in last June’s bypoll. In the 2019 election, however, the BJP’s Pradeep Kumar has wrested the seat, despite continuing arrears and stray cattle ravaging crops due to the State’s policies.

Farmer leader Raju Shetti of the Swabhimani Paksha lost his seat in Maharashtra’s Hatkanangale after a decade, despite his championing of farmers causes on the ground and in Parliament, where he introduced private members bills for farm loan waivers and remunerative crop prices.

“We have had mass protests and andolans, we have raised farmers issues and will continue to raise farmers issues. But not all farmers have voted on these issues that affect them,” he told The Hindu on Thursday evening. “My work for farmers will continue, whether in Parliament or not.”

Last minute actions

Maharashtra’s Dindori constituency is home to many of the Adivasis and farmers who kicked off the 2018 Long March of farmers from Nasik to Mumbai, demanding loan waivers and higher guaranteed minimum support prices for their crops. However, the Opposition failed to sufficiently capitalise on this discontent, giving the BJP’s Bharati Pravin Pawar an easy victory.

“Because of the Long March and other protests, the BJP was forced to acknowledge farmers issues. Some last minute actions, like the PM-KISAN scheme and a high-pitch campaign may have helped to appease farmers. Some farmers would have also been impacted by the ultranationalist campaign of the BJP,” said Vijoo Krishnan, a leader of the Left-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha, who helped organise the Long March. “Having got this mandate, if the government shows no sign of addressing the major issues, we will continue our struggle.”

Mass protests by farmers seemed to have pushed agricultural issues to the top of the political agenda during the Assembly elections in November 2018, giving the Congress victories in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. However, all three States voted for the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls.

Nationalist surge

“Until February, [farmers issues] were very much on the national agenda. But then came Pulwama and Balakot — the perfect ambush,” said Yogendra Yadav, president of Swaraj Abhiyan and a leader of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee. “In the end, farmers did not vote as farmers…This is a failure of the farmers’ movements, who failed to politicise the issue sufficiently, as well as of political parties. It is a major setback, a moment to introspect.”

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 12:13:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/lok-sabha-2019/farmers-protests-fail-to-have-an-impact-on-outcome/article27229090.ece

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