We are farmers, not in the business of votes: Rakesh Tikait
Farm leader and Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) national spokesperson Rakesh Tikait, who belongs to the Jat community of western Uttar Pradesh, was in Lucknow in connection with an agreement between the state government and farmers over the Lakhimpur Kheri incident. Hindustan Times caught up with him even as the seven-phase UP assembly elections are set to start from the western UP region that has been the hotbed of the farmers’ agitation in the state. Jat politics has also intensified in the region. Excerpts.
Q: With the farm agitation in the backdrop, now Jat politics, too, is at play in western UP from where you come. Being a Jat, how do you see all this? Who are the Jats with?
Don’t consider me a Jat. We are farmers. Farmers are above caste. We are united on our issues. Farm agitation and farmers’ issues will play out across the state in elections and beyond, and not just in western UP.
Q: Are you with any political party, overtly or covertly?
No, we are neither with the government nor with the BJP, SP-RLD or any other party. We are not for or against anyone — the government or the opposition. Our issues are farmers’ issues. Our issues are the issues that concern farmers across the country.
Q: Are you asking farmers or communities to vote for any political party?
No, we are not in the business of votes. We are away from electoral politics and votes. We are a farmers’ body, we are struggling for farmers’ issues. People and farmers would know themselves whom to vote for. It’s their business. Farmers, after selling their produce at half the deserving prices, will know whom to vote. A housewife, after buying a ₹400 (cooking gas) cylinder for ₹1,000, will know whom to vote for. We are with farmers, we are with people. Those who are sitting at home without jobs, will know whom to vote for.
Q: The government and politicians are converging on western UP.
Now, the UP government (ministers and leaders) are moving around western UP. They are flying in and out of the region. It would have been better had they travelled by road. Then, they would have known that they did not make the roads. And it would have been better had they begun travelling to western UP by road six months earlier to see the work instead of seeking votes now.
While the government is going to villages, we are looking for it in Delhi. The government should have thought over farmers’ questions, public’s questions. The government is too late.
Q: But are the government and leaders of political parties meeting farmers?
No, they are not. They are only looking for votes. Did anyone go to meet the farmers who are in jails? I don’t see the government anywhere. For 13 months, the farmers were agitating. The government was nowhere to be seen. The government (central government) is not seen, visible, or traced. We had been trying to trace the government but failed.
Q: Farm laws have been withdrawn, so what do you want to meet the central government about?
We wanted to meet the central government over the MSP (minimum statutory price) for crops, but the central government doesn’t meet us.
Q: But you are meeting the government today?
Yes and no. Of course, I am meeting the UP government today. But it is not for all the farm issues that are nagging farmers. The meeting is only about the Lakhimpur Kheri incident related agreement. Some important elements of the agreement are not yet fulfilled. We are meeting the committee that was formed by the government after the Lakhimpur Kheri incident (of October 3, 2021).
Q: So what are the elements of the agreement that are not fulfilled yet?
Two important ones — jobs to the victim farmers’ families and compensation to those who were injured in the incident. And we will also talk about cane payments to farmers. We will raise the Teni (the union minister of state Ajay Mishra ‘Teni’) question also.
Q: What about MoS Teni?
Our demand for his dismissal will end only with his dismissal.
Q: The Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav and Rashtriya Lok Dal’s Jayant Chaudhary are together. Akhilesh Yadav also made promises regarding farmers. How do you see this?
We are not with any politician. Yes, he has promised free electricity for irrigation for farmers, compensation to the victims of the farm struggle. All political parties are after votes.
Q: How do you see the farm agitation’s success?
It was successful. The government withdrew what it was adamant about not withdrawing. And the agitation was all the more successful considering that now all parties are talking about farmers. Our movement is separate, elections are separate. We are not going to mix the two.