BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan exacerbated the situation by resorting to the ‘divide and rule’tactics the BJP is famous for. He tried to divide the farmers by pulling out the RSS backed Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, carrying out separate negotiations, and making an announcement that the demand for minimum price for produce would be met while keeping silent on the parallel demand of loan waivers.

After ‘dividing’ the agitation as the state government perceived it, Chouhan used the whip on the agitating farmers at Mandsaur who had all initially responded to a call by the Bharatiya Kisan Union and come out on the streets, asking the farmers not to bring their vegetables and milk to the mandi. The police was used to crack down on the majority of farmers who continued with the protest and tried to stop others from breaking the agitation, by preventing them from selling their perishable products in the mandi.

The police opened fire on the farmers as they retaliated to the crackdown with stones, and now two more have died in hospital, bringing the toll up to eight. Several others are reported to be critical.

The strong arm response of the state resulting in the on the spot death of farmers has fuelled the anger with a full state bandh being called, and observed today in the state. Hundreds of farmers have joined the protsts with the RSS kisan outfit virtually isolated. The Congress, Left and other kisan units have all come out in support of the stir with Medha Patkar and the Narmada Bachao Andolan, currently protesting against the decision of the courts to open the dam gates that will inundate 40000 homes, will also be joining the agitation that kisan leaders said is not likely to abate.

State Home Minister Bhoopendra Singh who is known for always being in denial mode responded by insisting that the police had not opened fire. And that the firing had been done by “some anti social elements” . The CM too insisted that the Congress was involved when the truth is that the farmers, responding to calls by the BKU have not had the benefit---or otherwise---of backing from the political parties who are only now getting into the act. In fact at the Congress Working Committee meeting party President Sonia Gandhi did not even mention the stir, and it was only aftert the news had broken that vice president Rahul Gandhi tweeted on the issue.

Local MP leaders told The Citizen that in his long rule Chouhan has never consulted the Opposition, or held an all party meeting despite requests on any important issue. “He just speaks to RSS backed outfits, and takes his decisions, the rest do not matter,” a legislator said. Even now the perception is that instead of handling the proposed agitation---for which there was sufficient warning---the CM preferred to consult only the RSS farmers unit that pulled out of the protests, and when the others did not agree used the police to crackdown on the farmers.

Local leaders are of the view that the agitation will only intensify now as the deaths and the police attack has compounded the situation beyond easy repair. The political parties are now all stepping up the ante- with the RSS farmers organisation isolated completely. Earlier it had a say, but now as the farmer leaders told The Citizen on condition of anonymity for now, “they are now seen as the enemies of the movement.”