Sudden empathy for farmers
The controversial land bill issue is expected to generate much heat in Lok Sabha on Monday. At such an opportune moments, every politician begins to display great love and care for the plight of farmers. They take time out from their busy schedules to go sit with these farmers and protest against whatever ‘anti-farmer’ policy the incumbent government of that day has the audacity of announcing. The sight is a familiar one. A politician in his starch white kurta would sit on the dais with a bunch of lean, sun-burnt and troubled-looking farmers. Then he would do some aggressive sloganeering before rushing off to the next solidarity meet with a new set of farmers. As farmers struggle to cope with mounting losses incurred due to unseasonal rains, this circus of empathy has begun all over again with a fresh set of characters.
The leading protagonist is a rejuvenated Rahul Gandhi, who after his mysterious sabbatical, seems to have new found vigour and zeal for protesting and protecting the rights of farmers. Narendra Modi has also come out of his reticent shell and clarified a line of attack for the Bharatiya Janata Party cadres. According to Modi his party’s leaders were not reaching out enough to India’s poor and allowing the Opposition to mislead them and hijack the narrative. Meanwhile newly elected General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Sitaram Yechury has alleged that the Modi government was threatening the democratic fabric of India, and that socialism was the only way forward. This was opportune on Yechury’s part; considering that the presence of the Left has diminished primarily to Kerala and West Bengal, they are also being challenged by new entrants like the Aam Aadmi Party for the voting public’s mind-space.
If early signs are anything to go by, then the Congress party scion will be the one leading the charge against the land acquisition bill and the Prime Minister will be the one playing defence. “Modi wants to snatch your land to help the corporates from whom he took loans for his poll campaign,” Rahul Gandhi had thundered at the massive Kisan rally. This of course is a dramatic role reversal from the time the Bharatiya Janata Party rode into power and the Congress was seen as down and out. These speeches and statements come eerily close to Monday, which sees members of Parliament return to Delhi for the second half of the Budget session, which will give each of these aforementioned leaders enough space to rally their party workers. Modi’s explanations and the Congress show of aggression will set the stage for a protracted battle inside and outside the parliament. The battle lines are drawn. India’s farmers more than anyone else will be watching the results of this political duel carefully.