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Lok Sabha Election 2019: Farm issues, nationalist fervour dominate in Bikaner

The region has a history of a strong peasant movement during Independence. The Jats, who led the revolt against the feudal landlords, are politically influential in the region. Brahmins and Scheduled Castes are other influential communities.

lok sabha elections Updated: Mar 17, 2019 09:54 IST
Urvashi Dev Rawal
Urvashi Dev Rawal
Hindustan Times, Jaipur
farm issue in bikaner
In the assembly election, the farmer anger worked against the BJP. Now, the Congress seems to be on the receiving end.(HT)

Bikaner division situated at the northern tip of Rajasthan shares the International Border with Pakistan and after the recent Balakot air strikes sentiments are running high. Being the food basket of Rajasthan, farmer and water issues dominate the region.

Bikaner division has three parliamentary seats - Bikaner, Sriganganagar and Churu. Sriganganagar and Bikaner districts. Situated in the Thar Desert, the region has an arid climate with little rainfall. Thus water has always been an important factor here. The Gang Canal changed the arid region into Rajasthan’s food basket.

Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner got the Gang Canal built in 1899-1900 when Bikaner state faced a severe famine. The canal that brought Sutlej waters of Punjab to irrigate arid Bikaner was built in 1927 and changed the face of the region.

The region has a history of a strong peasant movement during Independence. The Jats, who led the revolt against the feudal landlords, are politically influential in the region. Brahmins and Scheduled Castes are other influential communities.

In the 2013 Lok Sabha election, BJP won all three parliamentary seats of Bikaner, Sriganganagar and Churu. In the 2018 assembly polls, of the 24 assembly segments in the three parliamentary constituencies, the Congress won 11, the BJP won 10, CPM bagged two and one seat went to an independent.

In the assembly election, the farmer anger worked against the BJP. Now, the Congress seems to be on the receiving end.

Girdhari Mahiya, CPM MLA from Dungargarh, said Bikaner division lies in the canal area and farming and water are important issue here. Electricity rates are high and so farming is expensive. Farmers are not getting minimum support price (MSP) and urea and fertiliser prices are high, so farmers are unhappy, he added.

Farmers are also feeling cheated on the loan waiver. The Congress had said they would give complete loan waiver, but they later added riders, said Mahiya.

He said there is infighting among both the Congress and BJP but it will damage the Congress more. “After the air strikes the mood currently favours the BJP. Votes are going to be cast in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s name,” he said.

Prof Om Janju, a former teacher at the Swami Keshvanand Mahavidyalaya in Sangria, Hanumangarh, said the BJP is trying to change the narrative after the air strikes. “There is no talk of the economy, farm distress, unemployment. BJP wants to keep alive the issue of nationalism and national security as they have failed to deliver on their promises,” he said.

Political analyst Narayan Bareth said, “Traditionally there was no industry or agriculture in the region and people migrated to other states for employment. After Gang canal, agriculture developed and there is some prosperity in the region.”

He said issues of farmers such as availability of water, seeds, urea, fertilizer, mandis and other infrastructure are important. Since the region is along the India-Pakistan border and there are many people from the region in the defence services, nationalism has a resonance here.

Senior BJP leader Devi Singh Bhati said the overall sentiment is pro-Modi especially after the air strikes. The upper castes, OBCs and most Scheduled Caste communities apart from Meghwals are supporting BJP. Jats who voted for the Congress in the assembly elections, will vote on basis of the candidate, he said.

However, Congress minister and Bikaner West MLA BD Kalla said people will not vote blindly for the BJP only on the issue of national security.

“BJP made lot of promises such as employment to 10 crore people, bringing back black money, but they failed to deliver. They have waived loans of big corporate but not of farmers. We have waived loans of cooperative and land mortgage banks and loans of nationalised and commercial banks are under process. People are smart and will assess the governments on the work done,” he said.

First Published: Mar 17, 2019 09:54 IST