Through their massive and unprecedented show of strength at Muzaffarnagar yesterday, farmers demonstrated they will be a force to reckon with in the political sphere. They may redefine the politics that has been in vogue in the last three decades, particularly the last, dominated by corporatization hand in hand with communal and caste divisions.

Farmer leaders at the rally were very clear that if the government thinks it can use the politics of vote to push anti-people policies down people’s throats, they are ready to respond with the politics of vote pe chot (hitting the vote).

They stated that the ongoing people’s movement is not solely against the ‘pro-corporate’ farm laws promulgated by the Narendra Modi led BJP government. It also intends to change the model of corporatization installed over three decades that has led to massive economic disparity and social turmoil.

This was clear as Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait thundered at the Muzaffarnagar rally, “India is for sale. This is the government’s policy. We have to stop the country from getting sold. Farmers should be saved, the country should be saved, business, employees and youth should be saved – this is the aim of the rally.”

Tikait went on to say, “Ye desh bachega, ye samvidhan bachega. (This country will be saved. This Constitution will be saved.)”

The farmers have been stating that they made a difference in the West Bengal polls which saw a rout of the BJP despite senior ministers, the party and its embedded media putting in all their might. So the Muzaffarnagar rally marked the launch of their Mission Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

That they will decide the poll outcome in Punjab, also going to polls, is a foregone conclusion. Their writ will also run in Haryana as and when the elections are held.

Tikait and other leaders made it clear that the protests at Delhi’s borders will continue till their demands are met, no matter what happens. He said the farmers are ready to lay down their lives.

This was amplified by Punjab farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal of the BKU (Rajewal) when he said, “We will sit there till 2024 if they have any doubts.”

Tikait elaborated in his speech that their mission will not only be confined to UP and Uttarakhand but the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, the umbrella organization leading the farmers’ protest, will take it to other parts of the country as well.

Looking at the political scenario, there has been a realignment of forces in western Uttar Pradesh in particular where the Jats and Muslim peasantry has come together since the farmers’ agitation began.

This is a reversal of the communal polarization that was instituted by large scale rioting in Muzaffarnagar in 2013, which had its spillover impact in several other states, creating a political advantage for the right wing. It is in this context also that Muzaffarnagar as a venue for the farmers’ show of strength was significant apart from it being the home turf of Tikait.

As Inderjeet, the All India Kisan Sabha leader from Haryana pointed out, “The same Muzaffarnagar will be their Waterloo.”

Tikait exhorting participants to raise the slogans of ‘Allahu Akbar’ and ‘Har Har Mahadev’ while saying that these slogans have always been raised in unison and will continue to be raised was a challenge to the politics of polarization that has come to dominate Uttar Pradesh.

It remains to be seen how the sentiment spills over to the central and eastern parts of the state.

In Uttarakhand the BJP is already battling massive anti-incumbency and frequently changing chief ministers. While the state is referred to as a hill state, it is the plains districts of Hardwar, Udham Singh Nagar and Dehradun that have a substantial number of assembly seats. These are also the districts where farmers have considerable sway over voting patterns.

Tikait was also clear in conveying that the movement is going to be a long one. “We do not know till when it will continue. The freedom struggle continued for 90 years,” he said.

“Our struggle has been going on for nine months but the government has stopped engaging in dialogue. They did not observe even a minute’s silence for the hundreds of farmers who died while sitting in protest on the outskirts of Delhi. But we will not end the movement at any cost.”

Rajewal meanwhile played up the impacts of the anti-people economic policies that have come to dominate politics in the country.

He began his speech by saying, “We are supposed to have a government of the people, by the people and for the people. But unfortunately we have elected a government of the corporate, by the corporate and for the corporate.”

“Everything is up for sale, whether the railways, airports and whatnot. All the assets that were built with the sweat and blood of the people are being sold. Only agriculture was left and now even that is being served on a platter to the corporate.

“A model that has failed across the world is being imposed on us. We are warning the government that it should mend its ways or it shall be uprooted,” he said.

“No one will be spared. The government told us that they cannot accept our demands as this will lead to labour organizations demanding the rollback of labour laws. We told them ‘ek baar Ganga mein kyon nahi naha lete,’” he said – Why don’t you atone your sins once and for all?

“They know what they have done is anti-people and not right. They are looking for a face saver.”

Photographs DANISH PANDIT for The Citizen