Union Minister of State for Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, Sanjeev Balyan, said that opposition parties such as the Congress, SP and RLD have weakened the ongoing farmers’ protest for their personal political interests.
In an exclusive interview to IANS, Balyan, a Lok Sabha member from Muzaffarnagar in western Uttar Pradesh, said ‘Rajneeti’ (politics) has taken the centre stage of farmers’ protest or Kisan Mahapanchayats by replacing the issues concerning the farmers.
The minister also suggested that talks between farmers and the Union government must resume on a positive note so that the farmers do not return home empty-handed from Delhi.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: Do you think that the Rakesh Tikait-led farmers’ protest will impact the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls?
A: I am not an astrologer who can predict the impact of farmers’ unrest on next year’s Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh. Only time will tell, when the polls are held in February-March next year. We will seek votes on the works of our governments, both at the Centre and the state. People will decide whether the farmers’ protest has had any impact on the elections.
The farmers of western Uttar Pradesh, who are participating in the Tikait-led protests, have different issues. Our farmers are different and their issues are related to sugarcane. If those issues are resolved, everything will be fine. The three farm laws are not an issue for our farmers. The increase in sugarcane procurement price, as promised by our Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, will make a huge difference. Most sugar mills have cleared sugarcane dues and I have heard that the remaining dues will be cleared soon.
I believe that the BJP will form the government again in Uttar Pradesh next year.
Q: Did Rakesh Tikait communalise the farmers’ protest by chanting slogans to appease a particular community during the Kisan Mahapanchayat in Muzaffarnagar?
A: I will not make any personal comment on him (Tikait), it is not right in a democratic setup. He wants to say something to appease a section. It is his desire to raise slogans. Someone will take in a positive way and the other in a negative way everyone has his own take. People have seen him chanting religiously and they will decide if it is right or wrong.
Q: It was seen that the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls and dislodging the BJP government was the main agenda of the Kisan Mahapanchayat in Muzaffarnagar. Your views
A: From the very first day, I am saying that the farmers’ protest has been politicised after the leaders from the opposition parties started joining Kisan rallies, and the farmers knew about it. The farmers are misled, and the whole protest has turned political. Now it looks like a protest against the BJP which is seen as a platform to dislodge our government in Uttar Pradesh.
In Muzaffarnagar, it was not a Kisan Mahapanchayat, but a political rally backed by some opposition parties. The Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) had supported the Mahapanchayat, and they are going to support such rallies in the future as well. Their workers had joined the Mahapanchayat in large numbers.
I appeal to my brothers to ensure that the opposition parties do not use them for their own political agenda.
I have realised that ‘Rajneeti’ has taken the centre stage of farmers’ protests or Mahapanchayats by replacing the farmers’ issues. The Congress, SP and RLD have weakened the farmers’ protest for their personal political interests.
People will decide who will rule the state, not the Congress, SP, RLD and other political parties. People understand what is going on when they see the flags of political parties at Kisan Mahapanchayats.
Q: Why did the government fail to convince the farmers to end their protest against the farm laws after almost a year?
A: Faith and trust is necessary for success of any talks and I believe the solutions can be only found through dialogue. Talks must resume to find out a solution acceptable to everyone and there must be no pre-conditions. Talks must start on a positive note and the farmers must not return home empty-handed from Delhi. I suggest the farmers must talk about real issues concerning them. Talks must start at the earliest to break the deadlock.
Q: It is learnt that the Jats, the community you belong to, in the western Uttar Pradesh are unhappy with the BJP over the farm laws?
A: Farmers are farmers and they belong from every caste. It is a farmers’ issue and I appeal to everyone not to paint it with the colour of caste. Yes, there are some misunderstandings among Jats over the ‘kisan kanoon’ (farm laws) and as political activists, we are approaching them to clear their doubts.
Earlier also, we tried to dispel the misconception and we will continue to do so till we are able to convince them. We will once again reach out to the farmers and the leaders of the ‘Khap Panchayats’ to dispel the misconception about the Central farm laws.
(Shashi Bhushan be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)