nion Minister and retired army General VK Singh is known to be a loose cannon. This is the man who had uttered the word ‘Presstitute’ in Parliament. With a knack of shooting his mouth off on complex issues which need the finesse of a seasoned politician, his rather brusque and rough handling has proven to be an embarrassment for the country many a times. He might be a person trained in military warfare but his types have never fought a real war. He has again proven to be an embarrassment when he asked farmers November 20 “what black” there was in the three controversial farm laws that now stand repealed after the Prime Minister’s announcement, except “the ink used to write them.” It could not simply be that he thinks he is too smart which is why he made such an obnoxious statement on an issue that shook the country to its core in recent times and brought the powerful Modi and his BJP government to their knees. It appears the BJP is still calculating the political cost that the party will have to pay for the not-so-honourable retreat the Centre has been forced to make with its decision to scrap the “black” laws. It appears to be confused, at its wits’ end and scared of the electoral repercussions it may face in the next few months when several states, including the all-important Uttar Pradesh, go to polls. It went to absurd lengths to blacken the farmers’ movement against the laws for a whole year by labelling the farmers as anti-nationals, Khalistanis, terrorists and every other abuse in its limited vocabulary. From its tallest leader, Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi, down to its foot soldiers, the ruling party used all the tricks in its bag to denigrate and discredit the farmers’ agitation. Its obduracy was such that it seemed to have been devoid of the milk of human kindness when farmers died by the hundreds and the government became more and more vindictive and insensitive.
There is no doubt that the BJP is desperate to control the damage caused by the introduction and later the repeal of the laws to the party’s electoral fortunes. For this, it is still insisting that there is nothing bad in the laws even after the Prime Minister in a subdued and conciliatory tone begged pardon and pleaded, while announcing the decision that the government “failed to explain the benefits of the laws to a small group of farmers”. Whether it was a ‘small’ or large group of farmers, we will never be certain, but Modi’s volte face did not look small. Such a defeated posturing by the Prime Minister should not have left any room for harping on what the government thinks about the laws. Instead, it should have been gracefully accepted as victory for the farmers’ viewpoints without any more debate. But, the tumultuous joy of the agitating farmers for the victory of their agitation over the government and the latter’s severe loss of face appear to be sending shockwaves to the BJP that has necessitated a counter-attack in the form of the General’s unworthy diversionary comments.
The farmers have shown to the country that when there is a people’s uprising, any government can be compelled to bow and accept the verdict of the citizens. It is more so, when Opposition political parties are either anaemic or devoid of credibility for their past acts of omission and commission. For, these parties have for the past few years, got powerful issues to corner the government but have miserably failed to build up courage to face them. Demonetisation, botched up GST, the Rafale deal, unprecedented employment crisis, COVID mishandling are examples of such issues that were enough for a political party with credibility to topple the government. But, the BJP emerged unscathed in each case.
For the first time in the seven plus-year-long tenure, the Modi government has suffered ignominious defeat at the hands of the farmers who scrupulously did not allow any political party to be openly associated with their movement. The Opposition parties, of course, extended their support, raised the issue time and again in the Parliament and outside and ensured that the farmers’ agitation did not lose importance by raising other issues, including the Pegasus snooping scam, with the same intensity. It was a wise decision of the farmers to keep political parties with their flags away from their agitation. The political parties have such a low standing in the eyes of the people that had they fought hand in hand with the farmers, the government could have easily succeeded in convincing the people of its narrative that the farmers had no real issue for which they enlisted the support of a discredited Opposition. The government tried all means to brand the agitation as the handiwork of terrorist outfits and anti-national forces while slapping sedition cases on many supporting the farmers’ cause.
The government appears to have got enough feedback that convinced Modi about the BJP’s imminent electoral reverses in UP, Punjab and Uttarakhand in the next few months as farmers from these states, along with those from Rajasthan have been in the forefront of the agitation against the farm laws. Defeat in these states, especially in UP, will cause incalculable harm to the BJP and the charisma the PM has gained. Its future will be in serious trouble. This seems to be the calculation behind the government decision to throw the farm laws into the dustbin.
An important take away from this climb down is that the ruling BJP has finally been made to understand it cannot do whatever it likes simply because it has the mandate to rule. Democracy means rule of the people and if the people believe the government is wrong, the government must bow down to the wishes of the citizens.