The PM’s combative pitch on the new farm laws on Monday was in contrast with the restiveness among the ruling NDA allies in the northern plains. The BJP’s minor allies — Hanuman Beniwal-led Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) in Rajasthan and Dushyant Chautala-led Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) in Haryana — showed signs of unease over the Government and the BJP’s staunch defence of the three farm laws against which farmers from Punjab and Haryana have thronged and surrounded Delhi.
In a letter to Home Minister Amit Shah, RLP MP from Nagaur Hanuman Beniwal said the Government should immediately withdraw the three farm laws – the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services. The laws provide an option for farmers to sell directly outside the regulated mandis, remove stockholding limits and create a framework of contract farming respectively. They enable private players to invest in warehousing, grading and other marketing infrastructure.
According to Hanuman Beniwal, it is “embarrassing for the Centre that the farmer is protesting in the harsh winter while the Covid-19 pandemic is still raging”.
‘Talk to farmers’
Beniwal said his party will reconsider the decision to align with the NDA if the government does not immediately “Pave the way for a dialogue with the farmers by allowing them to stay where they want in Delhi, withdraw the three farm laws and implement the MSP regime according to the Swaminathan committee report. If you fail to do it, we will reconsider our decision to continue to be a part of the NDA,” Beniwal told Amit Shah in his letter. Beniwal is a prominent Jat leader from Nagaur, the pocket-borough of the Congress’s formidable farm leader of yore – the late Ram Niwas Mirdha.
His grand daughter Jyoti Mirdha was the MP from Nagaur in 2004 but the Congress ceded ground to popular leaders from Jat community, particularly Hanuman Beniwal. He had joined the NDA before the Lok Sabha polls last year and successfully contested the Nagaur Lok Sabha seat.
Simultaneously, the announcement on Monday by 90 powerful Jat groups i.e. khaps of support to the agitating Punjab farmers is certain to shake the support to Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP Government in Haryana. In the 90-member Haryana Assembly, Chautala’s ten MLAs provide the majority to the BJP which had won 40 seats in the Assembly elections last year.
Chautala depends on community support for keeping his flock together and the open expression of support by the khaps spread across eight districts of Sonepat, Jhajjar, Rohtak, Bhiwani, Dadri, Jind, Hisar and Kaithal where the Jats dominate is interpreted as a powerful signal to him to withdraw from the government.