An elderly farmer clashes with police personnel during a protest at Delhi-UP border during 'Kisan Kranti Padyatra' in New Delhi, Tuesday, Oct 2, 2018.(PTI)
An elderly farmer clashes with police personnel during a protest at Delhi-UP border during 'Kisan Kranti Padyatra' in New Delhi, Tuesday, Oct 2, 2018.(PTI)

Farmers’ protest heats up politics in BJP stronghold of west UP

Bharatiya Kisan Union leaders yield considerable influence among the dominant caste of the region, Jats, through khap panchayats, whose diktat is considered the last word among community members.
By S Raju | Hindustan Times, Meerut
UPDATED ON OCT 03, 2018 12:01 AM IST

The re-emergence of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) through its Kisan Kranti Yatra will have impact in the politics of western Uttar Pradesh, a region that emerged a stronghold of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the previous Lok Sabha and assembly elections.

The Meerut, Saharanpur and Moradabad divisions of western Uttar Pradesh have a strong presence of the old of BKU and the region has 14 Lok Sabha and 71 assembly constituencies. Of these, the BJP holds all the LS and 65 of the assembly seats.

After the defeat in the Kairana Lok Sabha by-election earlier this year, BJP leaders are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to retain all 14 seats and chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Sunday, convened a meeting with MPs, MLAs and other leaders in Saharanpur to finalise a strategy for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

In the summer of 2019, the BJP may have to face a grand alliance of the opposition parties (Congress, RLD, BSP and SP) in the region and also the anger among farmers aggravated by Tuesday’s use of police force on them at Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border in Ghaziabad, which left a dozen farmers and eight policemen injured.

The BKU doesn’t consider itself a political party, although founder Mahendra Singh Tikait’s younger son Rakesh Tikait, who is now BKU’s national spokesperson, contested two assembly elections --- one as independent and other on the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) ticket --- and lost both.

Still, BKU leaders yield considerable influence among the dominant caste of the region, Jats, through khap panchayats, whose diktat is considered the last word among community members. BKU’s president Naresh Tikait heads Baliyan khap of 84 villages. The Deshwal and Malik khap chiefs are also part of the BKU. In the past elections in the state, the Jats had supported the BJP, and the khap panchayats played an important role in catalysing that support.

Adityanath accused his political opponents of exploiting farmers and outlined the steps taken by the state government for farmer welfare. “Some of their (farmers) issues have already been taken care of by our government -- like loses caused by stray cattle and old vehicles,” he said.

The BJP’s MP from Meerut and Hapur constituency Rajendra Aggarwal admitted that the farmers were facing some “genuine issues” but also defended the government. “The farmers have become victims of political ambitions of some people and party will reach out to them with facts and figures of what we have done for them,” he said.

Rajpal Singh, the Meerut district president of Samajwadi Party, said the government has been exposed on farm issues. “The BJP managed to win all (Lok Sabha) seats by dividing Jats and Muslims after riots of Muzaffarnagar. This will not happen now,” he added.

RLD spokesperson Sunil Rohta said the act of Delhi police, which is under the Union government, will pave the way of “many Kairanas” in the region in 2019 and that farmers would “teach a lesson to the BJP”. Condemning the action against farmers, Satendra Solanki, a local BSP leader, said the incident has turned farmers against the BJP.

Sanjeev Sharma, political science professor at Chaudhary Charan Singh University said preventing the farmers from entering Delhi can adversely impact the BJP if corrective measures were not taken by the incumbent government soon.

Dharmendra Singh,a farmers of Meerut’s Chabaria village said use of force on farmers can impact BJP poll prospects as the question being raised is why farmers were prevented from entering Delhi. “If others can hold protest in Delhi, why can’t farmers?” he asked.

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