Union minister Sanjeev Balyan. (HT archive)
Union minister Sanjeev Balyan. (HT archive)

Farmers’ protest: Union minister Sanjeev Balyan chairs meet on Jat outreach

Balyan was closeted with elected representatives from the Jat dominated areas of Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh a day after the party brass instructed them to reach out to the Khaps and dispel their resentment against the farm laws
PUBLISHED ON FEB 18, 2021 09:23 AM IST

Union minister and BJP’s Jat leader Sanjeev Balyan on Wednesday pinned the blame on the Opposition for prolonging the farmers’ agitation and said political parties that have lost the people’s mandate are using the farmers’ stir to remain relevant.

“We will explain to the farmers that the issue is being politicised by those Opposition parties that were nowhere… the Congress and the RLD have begun joining rallies. The farmers must have also realised this by now,” he said after a meeting with his party colleagues at his residence here.

A Jat leader who represents the Muzaffarnagar constituency in the Lok Sabha and is also the minister of state for animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries, Balyan was closeted with elected representatives from the Jat dominated areas of Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh a day after the party brass instructed them to reach out to the Khaps and dispel their resentment against the farm laws.

Also Read | Farmers’ protest: Sugarcane hub western Maharashtra remains largely silent

Party chief JP Nadda and Union home minister Amit Shah had met these elected representatives on Tuesday to draw up a plan to stem a possible Jat agitation.

The minister, who emerged as the face of the Jat community after defeating RLD strongman Ajit Singh, said the government is committed to finding a resolution to the stir through dialogue. He also tried to dispel concerns about the new laws in UP, especially in the western UP area, where the party fears a fallout of the agitation.

“Contact farming is already happening in western UP. Farmers decide the prices at which they will sell to the sugar mills; if they feel the prices are more in the open market, they are free to sell outside also. APMC Act has also not affected the sugarcane farmers…” he said.

While farmers from the region have thrown their weight behind Rakesh Tikait who has emerged as the face of the farmers’ agitation, Balyan pointed out how his father Mahendra Singh Tikait had advocated the need for allowing farmers to sell anywhere in the country.

Also Read | No invite to BJP leaders for any function till farm laws scrapped: UP panchayat

While the farmers have threatened to intensify their stir, the government is pulling out all stops from ensuring that a mobilisation of the Jat communities across states does not take the shape of an anti-BJP force.

“There is a view in the party that the Jat leaders failed to read the sentiment on the ground and the crisis that could have been nipped in the bud has now turned into a problem for the party. Now all efforts are being made to ensure that the agitation does not hurt the BJP in the upcoming elections in UP,” said a leader privy to the meeting.

The meeting of the Jat leaders coincided with the BJP’s setback in the municipal elections in Punjab, the epicentre of the protests against the farm laws. While the Congress swept all seven municipal corporations in the state local body elections, the BJP had poor showing even in stronghold such as Pathankot.

“There is a concern that the Jats, who are a considerable votebank for the party, can benefit our opponents. Tikait himself has political ambitions and he has, in the past, lobbied for a ticket (from the BJP). He is using the agitation for fulfilling his political ambition and that is what we will go to people with,” the functionary said.

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