By Bimal Prasad Mohapatra
The state of Punjab with large farmers’ population –now being ruled by Congress Party- is in turmoil for near about one year, and this is incidentally on the eve of state Assembly Poll 2022. This is a sensitive border state as the state has border with India’s arch-rival –since independence- Pakistan and has large Sikh population which is infected with radical secessionists. Here, all who matter should not forget that Pakistan military and political leaderships have been hunting for opportunity to avenge India’s role in balkanizing Pakistan in 1971. The present phase of tumult in Punjab having visible symptoms of Pakistan sponsored Khalistani separatists’ agitation of late 1970s and early 1980s in the first phase and in early 1990s in the second phase started soon after BJP-led NDA government in centre passed in the Parliament of India the long pending Agricultural Reform Bill called Farm Laws 2020 to be implemented throughout India.
Although the Farm Laws have got appreciations from domain-specific economists both in India and abroad, yet it has been opposed allegedly by the farmers of Punjab. Later, it is claimed the farmers from Haryana and Western UP joined them. In between, the agitators have organized several Bharat Bandhs. But, none of them have any substantial impact outside the above listed states and region though most of the states in the country have majority of farmers population and more than 60 percent of country population are dependents on farming, directly or indirectly. But what alarming is: large numbers of people who matter in Indian media, civil society and politics have any regard over the issue that why the other states and regions farmers are not opposing the Farm Laws. Is it that Farm Laws are good for those farmers who don’t agitate and bad for those who agitate? Or they are exploiting their geographical proximity to national capital? And even if remotely so, should the laws having huge positive impact on economy of the country and the economy of its majority of population be scrapped?
The study of the above discussed agitation finds three categories of vested interests oppose to the Farm Laws. These vested interests have infiltrated gullible farmers instigating them with their interpretation of Farm Laws a la they infiltrated India Against Corruption movement in early 2010s and after achieving their early political gain kicked their discovered mask gullible Gandhian Anna Hazare to oblivion in the manner and style Jinnah’s Pakistan did to Dalit leader Jogender Mandol post-British Rule in the sub-continent. These vested interests are: electorally rejected politicians, new political entrants and Pakistan sponsored Khalistani separatists.
Electorally rejected politicians and new political entrants to electoral politics from all colours and shades have been encouraging agitations over the governments made laws and policies infiltrating into different agitations since independence. There is nothing new in it. And this is accepted as democratic defaults. But their joining hands with separatists, anti-nationals and Pakistan sponsors agitations are not politics that the democratic India deserves. This is aberration in democratic politics, needs to be strongly dealt with by the authority, and judiciary, which now-a-days often found poking its noses from Oxygen distribution to the fixing speed limit of vehicles on Expressways while sitting for months on the report of expert committee it appointed to find out whether Farm Laws are good for farming community and Indian Economy.
As part result of this agitation, the Chief Minister of Punjab Captain Amarinder Singh, who suppressed Pakistan sponsored extremism ruthlessly recently, led the Congress Party single-handedly to win the 2017 Assembly election for the party in a three corner steep electoral battle and was serving his second inning, has been ousted unceremoniously. Prior to his ouster, he had in several occasions explicitly told that Pakistan sponsored separatists have infiltrated Farm Agitation, and regarding his party colleague cricketer-turn-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who led the anti-Captain rebellion as well as was the Congress interlocutor in Farm Agitation, said, “I will never allow that man [Sidhu] to come. He is an anti-national element. I will not allow him. He is too mixed up with Pakistan.”
Since joining Congress Party, political turncoat Sidhu had been in BJP for long times and to Aam Aadmi Party for a brief period. Currently, he is running the ambition of to be CM of Punjab. It looks like to achieve CM post, Sidhu can go to any extent which a layman can guess having viewing the video of his socializing with Pakistan General and politicians on several occasions. No doubt, he engineered ouster of Captain Singh taking advantage of Farm Agitation which does not enjoy Captain’s whole-hearted support. But the veteran Captain did not allow Sidhu to be CM, and in the process, a Dalit sworn in as CM. Now, Sidhu and Congress Party have been convinced that Captain will not allow them to win ensuing election, hence the chance of Sidhu occupying the Chair of CM in near future out of question, which may be a reason of latter’s dramatic resignation as President of PCC –not accepted- he bestowed with a month back by Gandhi scions.
Here, many ask why Congress Party went by the turncoat Sidhu’s scheme of politics in the state. One of the many reasons is Reddy Ghost that hunts Congress owner family i.e. Gandhi dynasty. It is because Gandhi dynasty can’t afford another Y S Rajsekhara Reddy in the party who can question Gandhi family supremacy over the party affairs like former was doing from 2004 -when became CM- to till his death in a helicopter crash, about the crash many raised eyebrows. After coming to power in 2004, Reddy though was in Congress Party, he had made him autonomous. He went on winning 2009 election on his own and was so popular among the masses and in the state’s Congress Party that after his death his son though was so young yet the entire state Congress Party was with him. In 2014, though Jagamohan Reddy’s regional party could not win the Assembly election, he could manage to hijack the entire state Congress Party to his family custody, unseen in Congress-Nehru-Gandhi politics before. Since then Congress Party of the state, which stood by Gandhi Dynasty during its trying days of post-National Emergency and Rama Rao-Chandrababu Naidu storms, has lost its political relevance in the state. Captain Amarinder Singh had exhibited symptoms of Rajsekhar Reddy but could not be punished. The opportunities that Farm Agitation and Sidhu gave were long awaited by Gandhi Dynasty.
Coming to Dalit Politics, Punjab has near about 32 percent Dalit population, the highest in any states in India. Yet the state has no Dalit caste based political party having political strong hold like seen in other states. The largest Dalit political party called Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is founded by a Dalit politician late Kansi Ram, who belongs to Punjab. Yet Ram could not be a force to reckon with in Punjab politics. Instead his party was once upon a time a force to reckon with in Utter Pradesh politics and went on becoming ruling party of the state where Dalit constitute 17 percent state population. From this, one can comfortable guess the political status of Dalit in Punjab. After ousting Captain, Congress Party has appointed a Dalit Charanjit Singh Channi –many allege he has in the meanwhile been converted to Christianity- as state CM. It is no doubt that he is a step gap arrangement and to fool state Dalit, who constitute the major group of state voters as seen in 1989-90 and in 1999-2000 in Odisha when state Congress Party appointed tribal leaders Hemananda Biswal and Giridhar Gamang-Hemananda Biswal respectively to make them sacrificial goats for administrative lapses and corruptions during late J B Patnaik rules. Tribal constitute near about 23 percentage of Odisha state population, the single largest group of state voters. It was different matter that the Congress’s Odisha placates did not work for the party. May be the same fate await Congress Party in Punjab and Channi be another Joginder Mondal, Giridhar Gamang and Hemananda Biswal.
(Author is Research Fellow at DRaS and Asst. Professor at TGI, Bhubaneswar. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)