The unexpected announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday to repeal the three controversial farm laws — largely seen as guided by the political compulsions due to upcoming elections in northern States — seems to have come “a little too late” for the ruling coalition in Haryana to win back the farming community, mostly the Jats. The “damage has already been done”, say political analysts.
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“Irrespective of whether the farm laws are repealed or not, the Jats, the major agricultural land-owning community in the State, have this vicarious feeling of loss of power under the present regime led by a non-Jat Chief Minister after being at the centre of State’s politics for decades, and their opposition to the Bharatiya Janata Party will continue. The agitation has further fuelled the community’s opposition to the party,” said Rajendra Sharma, Professor, Political Science, Maharishi Dayanand University.
“But the Dushyant Chautala-led Jannayak Janata Party, the junior coalition partner, could be the biggest loser of the movement with a large chunk of its support base, mostly the Jats, having drifted back to Indian National Lok Dal,” Prof. Sharma said.
Former Haryana Agriculture University professor and political analyst Ram Kanwar said withdrawal of three farm laws was vindication that the agitation against the laws was “justified” and the protesters were “farmers”, thus causing more political damage to the ruling coalition whose leaders had, on several occasions, tried to show the protesters in a poor light and even dismiss the movement as “politically motivated”.
Though the political analysts said it was premature to comment on the possible new social combinations emerging in the State out of the agitation, the recent victory of Indian National Lok Dal MLA Abhay Chautala in Ellenabad by-poll being attributed to Dalits and Sikhs joining hands with Jats could be a hint of things to come.
“The protest against the three farm laws was initially seen as a farmers movement, but the rise in prices of essential commodities and the labour codes turned the poor and the workers also against the present regime making it a mass movement. It is now for the political parties to tap this anger to cobble new social combinations in the state,” said Raju Maan, a Congress leader.
Under the leadership of Chaudhary Devi Lal, the Lok Dal had support across “peasantry” communities, including Jats, Sainis, Other Backward Classes and the Scheduled Castes, but over the years the party, now INLD lost its support base among the communities other than Jats with leaders such as Ashok Arora, Hari Singh Saini, P.D. Gupta, Kripa Lal Punia, quitting it. The Congress has traditionally banked on a Jat-SC combination in the State with Chamars, a dominant Scheduled Caste community, supporting the Congress.
“If not a State-level social coalition, the parties can try and cobble together social combinations at constituency and district-levels during election,” said Prof. Sharma.
However, sounding a note of caution, Inderjit Singh, vice-president of the All-India Kisan Sabha, Haryana, said a clearer picture on the possible political fallout of the agitation would emerge only after the curtains were fully drawn on it.
“It is still not over. The announcement to repeal three farm laws has reposed common man’s faith in struggle and proved that the present regime is not invincible. The farmers feel victorious, but there is still no commitment on legal guarantee for Minimum Support Price. The possible political repercussions of the agitation for the State would be known only after it comes to an end,” said Mr. Singh.