By Vijay Sanghvi
Both Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party are fighting tooth and nail to woe farmers from Uttar Pradesh, who lost their standing crops due to unseasonal heavy rains in March this year.
Though damage to crops is across the entire state, both parties are focussing on the farmers of Amethi district. Union Minister Smriti Irani rushed to the constituency with Minister of state for agriculture Sanjeev Ballyan as part of her two-day entourage to Amethi.
The location was significant as Smriti lost to Rahul Gandhi from Amethi in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. She wanted to convey the message that she was concerned and willing to serve the people despite having lost the election while; her rival Rahul Gandhi was too preoccupied with other concerns. He only talks about the plight of farmers– from a distance.
The 2014 Lok Sabha elections was a miracle for the BJP, which bagged 71 of 80 seats in UP. Its associate Apana Dal bagged two seats; Samajwadi party won five seats — Mulayam Singh got elected from two. The only two traditional pro-Congress seats — Rae Bareli where Sonia Gandhi trounced Kumar Vishwas of the AAP and Amethi where Smriti Irani lost to Rahul Gandhi.
The BJP apparently plans to wrest both from the Gandhi family in the next election and has deputed Smriti Irani to nurse the constituencies. The state party unit worked out her visit and meetings with farmer panchayats in different villages so that they could have the satisfaction of their problems being heard by the union minister. It was more to have a demonstrative effect to convey that the BJP candidates cared for them even after being defeated. Otherwise, the demands of farmers are simple and known. They want the state government teams survey the damage to their crops earliest and recommend an immediate payment of compensation. Another concern is to get the full amount of compensation so recommended, without the ‘customary cuts’ for the intermediaries in the Treasury department. The declared compensation obviously cannot meet their needs for the next crop season, so they also want meager assistance to meet expenses for the next season.
Irani’s visit was prompted by reports that the Sangh Parivar leaders stationed in the state have warned the state BJP unit that it was losing its grip over the state. It had achieved all time high number of seats in the last election as all social sections had gravitated to the BJP. Other Backward Classes were estranged with the party over their disenchantment with the attempted land reforms by the Modi government. The Sangh leaders are more worried about the land owners and than the landless.
The Sangh Parivar has claimed the last victory as that of the BJP. The tendency is to reduce the role of Narendra Modi’s campaigning and economic reforms programme to a minimal part in the victory overlooking the fact that the party won six seats it lost last year.
Mulayam Singh Yadav gave clinching evidence that the BJP and its associate bagged 73 seats in the state only due to the sharp division of 70 per cent votes that did not fill the BJP box. The division was four ways to allow the BJP past the post. The Samajwadi Party snatched away eight of eleven seats that the party had won in the state polls only a year earlier when Akhilesh Yadav star was on the ascent. The BJP lost eight seats when Akhilesh government was down the hill with severe mauling in the Lok Sabha polls only two months earlier and was also under clouds due to indifferent rule. The bye-poll results did not show the grip of the party in the absence of Narendra Modi and even after its chief campaigner, Swami Adityanath spewing venom against the minorities as the main plank of the BJP in bye-polls.
NaMo made no efforts to prevent the Sangh Parivar from trying out its old identity issues to win bye-polls without his appearing in campaign support. The bye-polls proved that the BJJP cannot move ahead anymore without clinging to coattails of Narendra Modi and campaigning for his economic agenda. Absence of two other major parties, the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party in the field had converted the electoral battle into a direct fight between the Samajwadi Party and the BJP to provide added advantage to Yadav clan.
Lamentations of Bharat Singh BJP MP from Balia at the BJP Parliamentary Party that no development works were started by the NaMo government even though it was completing a year in office. His claim that not a single km of new road was constructed in his constituency in eleven months was mentioned in meeting between the Sangh and the party leaders in Lucknow. It is difficult to ascertain who suffered more pathetically from ignorance of federal structure with constitution dividing clearly the central and the state spheres of work fields. Construction and maintenance of roads is a state prerogative, and the centre cannot dictate terms to the state under the SP rule. Recalling the lamentation of an adherent follower of the Sangh to beat the NaMo government with accusations of no action regime has certainly let the cat out of the bag. Friendly media was briefed fully of the meeting to convey dissatisfaction of the Sangh over the year of NaMo in office.
The Sangh Parivar is set against any reforms in the laws relating to land acquisition as enacted during the previous regime as it does not want changes in economy and desires to keep it depending on agriculture as its base. The expanding industrialization would bring economic betterment, but it also would take away young from the basic philosophy of the Sangh. The economic betterment tends to reduce the importance of religion is the experience of all European nations that benefitted from the industrial revolution. The land reforms by the NaMo government were thus conveyed as the cause of weakening grip of the party over the OBCs of the state. But there was also an admission that the campaign of Adityanath had failed to take off during the bye-polls.