New Delhi, Oct. 11: Lalji Bhai Patel, an RSS pracharak (whole-timer) in Gujarat for over 50 years, has turned a rebel and is leading a farmers' agitation chanting slogans of betrayal by the BJP and terming the Narendra Modi government anti-peasant, causing jitters in the ruling dispensation in the poll-bound state.
Lalji Bhai, a founder member of the RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, has floated an outfit named Kisan Kranti Manch and announced an agitation against the BJP, sweeping aside purported efforts by the RSS and the state government to win him over.
He is currently associated with the publicity section of the economic wing of the RSS, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch. Lalji Bhai said he joined the RSS in 1963 and became a full-time pracharak in 1969.
"The BJP's betrayal of farmers has turned intolerable. Narendra Modi had promised (before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls) that he would ensure farmers got one-and-a-half times more than their input cost, but nothing has been done. Farmers are being crushed," Lalji Bhai told The Telegraph over phone.
He said farmers not only in Gujarat, but across the country were in deep distress because of the policies of the BJP government.
Lalji Bhai said that initially, he had tried his best to get the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh to protest but the outfit did not agree. So he felt it was his duty to stand for the cause of farmers, he said.
Lalji Bhai floated the Kisan Kranti Manch on October 3 and started the agitation. He claimed both the RSS and the government had sent emissaries to him but he had decided to go ahead with the protests.
The BJP government betrayed its unease by refusing permission to Lalji Bhai to hold a protest in Ahmedabad earlier this week.
He had sought permission for a five-day protest and reduced the duration to three days and then a day, but the government refused. Ultimately, he was allowed to only submit a memorandum to the government.
"The Gujarat government is being run from Delhi by Narendra Modi. They have all become autocrats. Modi talks big but his acts are anti-farmer. He is bluffing the people by talking about the poor, but actually he is helping big corporates," Lalji Bhai said and declared that he was travelling across the state to build a farmers' agitation. He demanded that Gujarat farmers be given a loan waiver.
"More than Rs 1.73 lakh crore in bank loans taken by 12 industrial houses have been waived in Gujarat. Why is the government not announcing a loan waiver for farmers?" he said.
According to Lalji Bhai, the distress in the farming sector had forced 3.5 lakh farmers in Gujarat to quit agriculture and that more than 13 lakh hectares of farmland in the state was lying fallow. He alleged that the Modi government's crop insurance scheme was faulty as farmers were paying premium but were not getting enough coverage.
Asked why a committed RSS pracharak was working against the BJP and in the process helping the Congress in the run-up to the December elections in Gujarat, Lalji Bhai said: "I am not concerned about who wins or loses. The BJP will learn a lesson only after it loses."
Lalji Bhai alleged that Modi was "anti-RSS" and practised "pseudo Hindutva". He claimed the RSS leadership was upset with the "autocratic" style of functioning of the Centre but was tolerating everything because of "anti-Congressism".
BJP national chief Amit Shah had last month drawn up a blueprint for a mass campaign to reach out to Gujarat's farmers and the backward castes amid fears that the bullet train project and the Sardar Sarovar dam may not ensure victory this December.
The Congress has upped the ante against the Centre over the farm distress across the country, which has been aggravated by demonetisation and GST.