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How BJP's miscalculation strengthened farmer agitation, Jat bonding in UP, Haryana

The story of ‘roti-beti ka rishta’ and ‘jat pride’ and the second major miscalculation in the agitation

How BJP's miscalculation strengthened farmer agitation, Jat bonding in UP, Haryana

BKU president Naresh Tikait, along with other leaders, during a ‘mahapanchayat’ organised to mobilise support for the farmers’ agitation at Delhi borders against Centre’s farm reform laws, in Muzaffarnagar on Friday. PTI photo

Vibha Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 30

Baghpat, Sonepat and Rohtak—they may be in different states (Uttar Pradesh and Haryana) but members of the ‘Jat’ community of the region share strong socio-cultural ties/bonding called “roti-beti ka rishta”.

What the events of the past few days in the ongoing farmers’ agitation, especially those revolving around BKU leader Rakesh Tikait, have done is strengthened those bonds.

Perhaps, this is the second time the BJP leadership miscalculated the agitation, the first being underestimating farmers and their agitation.

A day after the highly-successful ‘mahapanchayat’at Muzzaffarnagar, which decided that the Ghazipur agitation would continue, a similar event is now being planned at Baghpat, the bastion of ‘Jat’ leaders Ajit Singh and son Jayant Chowdhury.

Baghpat may be in Uttar Pradesh, and is an hour's drive from Sonepat, but the implications of another ‘mahapanchayat’ are expected to be felt not just in Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh but also in Manohar Lal Khattar’s Haryana—incidentally both non-Jat chief ministers.

BKU spokesperson Rakesh Tikait’s tears have not impacted only Ghazipur but also Singhu in Haryana.

A day after Muzaffarnagar ‘mahapanchayat’, BKU president Naresh Tikat has said that a similar event had been planned in Baghpat on January 31.

Naresh Tikait on Friday said it was “their mistake” to support the BJP candidate, Union Minister Sanjiv Balyan, against RLD chief Ajit Singh in the last Lok Sabha elections.

After the death of BKU founder Mahendra Singh Tikait, the organisation lost much of its support base, say observers.

In fact, Rakesh Tikait lost when he contested the elections.

But the visuals of Rakesh Tikait, a Jat, becoming sentimental and breaking down, were enough to stir emotions among his community who “collectively felt humiliated”. Perhaps the BJP has inadvertently increased his relevance, bringing together the community, and giving purpose and strength to Tikait brothers and their organisations.

“Jats stand by each other in ‘dukh’. It is a typical characteristic of the community which the BJP misunderstood and turned what could have been a possible resolution into a prestige issue for them. The basic feeling now is that ‘BJP ne dukhi kar diya kyoki wo ‘Jat’ hai’ (BJP created problems for him because Rakesh Tikait is a ‘Jat’)”, explains Prof Sudhir Panwar.

After Naresh Tikait calling off the agitation two days back, there were visible signs of  thinning of protests at the Ghazipur protest site.

Sources say even though an “agreement” was reached with the Tikait brothers that the protest site would be vacated, the increase in security forces and presence of Loni MLA Nand Kishore Gujjar and his supporters “vitiated the atmosphere”.

Asserting that he would not surrender and would also call more people to join the protest if needed, Rakesh Tikait broke down saying “he would rather commit suicide than leave and end the protest against the farm laws”.

Following that, Naresh Tikait quickly called an emergency meeting and appealed to supporters to reach Ghazipur and scheduled the Muzzafarnagar ‘mahapanchayat’.

Coming to the first miscalculation, many observers say the Narendra Modi government not just “underestimated” the agitation but also the determination and resolve of the Punjab farmers who managed to reach and hold on at the Delhi borders despite so many hurdles.

Had it taken care of the situation in Punjab, it would not have escalated to this level, they say.

Quite clearly, Punjab BJP leaders did not give the correct feedback of the situation in the state to the Centre. Whether a similar situation is now being repeated in Uttar Pradesh remains to be seen.