Farm laws repeal: Modi’s ‘tactical retreat’ won’t save BJP in Assembly polls, says farmer leader Raju Shetti

Raju Shetti says announcement to repeal the contentious laws would have made a greater impact had it been done on January 26 this year itself.

Remarking that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s repeal of the controversial farm laws that elicited massive countrywide farmer protests proved that democracy was still “alive and well” in the country, farmer leader and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) chief Raju Shetti on Friday said that this ‘tactical move’ would not help swing the BJP’s fortunes in the upcoming Assembly elections in five States.

Speaking to The Hindu from Kolhapur, Mr. Shetti said that the Centre’s backing down in face of collective farmer protests was “a historic occasion”, while contending that Mr. Modi’s announcement to repeal the contentious laws would have made a greater impact had it been done on January 26 this year itself.

“It is now almost a year since farmers from the Punjab, Haryana and other places began their mega-protests, which were peaceful in nature…during this while, the BJP-ruled Centre tried every trick in their book to defame and break the protests movement, and when these failed, tried to incite violence. However, the farmers firmly stood their ground and the Centre had to roll back these anti-farmer laws,” said the SSS chief.

Mr. Shetti, a former two-time MP from Hatkanangale in Kolhapur, said that the BJP had realised too late that the mood of the crucial farmer constituency had decisively swung against them in the upcoming polls in the Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

“In Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri, a Minister’s son mows down farmers with impunity during a protest…this arrogance and corruption that comes with absolute power has marked the Modi regime and BJP-ruled State governments. Now, the Centre realises that the critical farmer vote is moving away from them and the PM has made this announcement which comes a little too late to save the day for the BJP,” he said.

Mr. Shetti further stated that getting the Centre to back off on the farm laws was not the achievement of any single farmer leader but of the farmers as a whole.

He compared the farmers’ win to Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent methods which helped topple the British Raj and stated that the farmers’ victory was remarkable given that the BJP had steamrolled the bills in both Houses of Parliament.

“The announcement repealing the farm laws proves that even an authoritarian figure like Prime Minister Modi had to bow before the resolution of the majority…while it has become a fashion nowadays for those in power at the Centre [the BJP] and their adherents to make fun of Gandhiji’s ideas, the farmers’ victory only proves the relevance of the great man’s ideas,” Mr. Shetti remarked.

The SSS president, who visited Delhi last year to show solidarity with the protesting farmers, had questioned the manner in which the agrarian bills were mooted and passed in Parliament.

“The bills, which were passed with unseemly haste, had only added to the suspicion that its only beneficiaries are to be industrialists like Gautam Adani or Mukesh Ambani and that the Centre’s objective is to make good the losses suffered by multinational companies during the pandemic by getting corporates to venture into agriculture,” Mr. Shetti had said.

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