Farm Laws: Retreat and Regrets

by the Editor: Siddharth Sehgal

In a democracy sometimes even strongmen have to wake up to political realities, PM Modi’s decision to take back the three farm laws reflects just that. But it’s the determination and grit of protesting farmers that made PM and his party see those ground realities. BJP representatives were hounded away from their own constituencies in Punjab, Haryana, and Western UP, and arrogance and the majority only last till you have numbers.

It was a bitter pill to swallow but our PM being a pragmatic politician nonetheless swallowed it, but had him or his party’s powerholders heeded the advice earlier and had introduced the bill with due consultation and discussion both inside and outside parliament, this “tactical retreat” would have been much more face-saving. Attitudes didn’t change either when farmers came to register their grievances in the national capital and they were called names and shamed for sharing a different view from the government. The end result was that the dissent and anger spread in towns and villages and BJP representatives started to feel the heat and sands shifting underneath their feet. Covid mismanagement in the second wave and inflation in petrol, diesel, and food items also didn’t help. So in fear of losing crucial political ground in UP, BJP leadership decided to repeal the farm laws.

Humility is often an understated quality in politics but it’s also a very powerful attribute to have. Hopefully, PM Modi and his party will try to inculcate this quality in their everyday communication and engagement with people. Just like farmers PM should start listening to the woes of middle-class families too that have voted for him and try to alleviate their concerns around inflation and dwindling jobs, especially government ones. Selling profitable public assets to corporations who can shower you with luxuries and expensive items can become politically expensive if this trend continues.

Another big factor in this ignominious situation for BJP is its tendency to listen only to positive or should I say sycophantic voices. When you choose to surround yourself with, and reward, people who demean the country and its independence struggle and then you are destined to lose the sane, reasonable voices. Criticism is a bitter medicine but it keeps a politician in check and fixed to the ground. Those media houses who vilified protesting farmers should also do some soul-searching; they made a fool of themselves in blindly defending these farm bills. Anyone who disagreed was heaped with insults and praise was heaped on their political masters in the name of news. Journalism’s death in India was evident during these protests. Except for some conscious voices, most of the journalists in the Noida media jungle are political stooges.

How much this backtracking will help BJP only time will tell, but listening to people and alleviating their concerns will definitely help in the long term.

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