Analysis

Has the Centre underestimated Punjab farmers?

Sources say government considering advancing December 3 meeting to buy peace.

Has the Centre underestimated Punjab farmers?

It is evident the Punjab BJP leaders also did not give the correct feedback on anger among farmers of the state. Tribune photo.

Vibha Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 29

A couple of weeks ago, two senior ministers of the Narendra Modi government held “off-record” briefings for media persons to highlight the merits of the three Central farm Acts and give the government side of view on the persisting farmers’ agitation in Punjab. 

In one such meeting, when the ministers were asked about the upcoming ‘Dilli Chalo’ call of farmers, they dismissed the agitation as “politically driven”, adding: “You saw what happened to the ‘chakka jam’…this too will fizzle out.”

On how long they expected the agitation to continue, they said “not long”. 

As farmers on Sunday rejected Home Minister Amit Shah’s offer of “talks with the condition of moving to Burari”, observers say it is evident that the Narendra Modi government not just “underestimated” the agitation but also determination and resolve of Punjab farmers who reached Delhi despite so many hurdles, adding that “it is also evident the Punjab BJP leaders did not give the correct feedback on the state”.

“It is a remarkable movement which is not driven by religion or politics. To give it anti-national/Khalistan label is a huge mistake. Farmers have conveyed their message loud and clear…quite clearly the Narendra Modi government has limited understanding of Punjab and its people,” analysts say.

They also point to the way Punjab rejected BJP’s two top contenders, late Arun Jaitley and Union Minister Hardeep Puri, in the 2014 and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections despite the Narendra Modi wave sweeping the country, to stress their point.

“To judge Punjab as a Hindi heartland state is a mistake. Punjab is not like Uttar Pradesh or even like Haryana. It cannot be polarised with the Hindu-Muslim fear. Punjabis don’t fear Muslims or anyone for that matter. If the aim is to give Hindu-Sikh colour or try to paint is as another Shaheen Bagh, then God help them,” said a Punjab-based expert.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi praising farm laws again today, it appears the government is in no mood to roll back on the three contentious Acts. While speculations are that the government may advance the December 3 meeting to persuade farmers to clear the highways, the question is will farmers agree to “another set of just talks”.

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