Baldev Singh Aulakh, the minister of state for Jal Shakti in Uttar Pradesh, who had gone to a village in Rampur district on Sunday to campaign for a BJP-supported candidate in panchayat elections, was driven away by the villagers, mostly farmers, who waved black flags and chanted slogans against him and the party.
Eyewitnesses said Aulakh was forced to leave Matkhera in Bilaspur Assembly constituency when residents, most of whom were farmers, gathered around his convoy and started chanting “Aulakh murdabad, BJP murdabad” and “Krishi kanoon wapas lo, wapas lo (repeal the farm laws)”.
The minister, however, claimed that nothing of that sort had happened.
“There were four-five people who were standing there and created commotion. People don’t oppose me in my Assembly constituency,” said Aulakh, a BJP MLA from Bilaspur, 350km northwest of Lucknow.
However, the local farmers claimed that over 250 people didn’t allow the minister to enter the locality and campaign there.
“Sardar Gurveer Singh Vikkar, along with 200 farmers from Bilaspur, is protesting against the farm laws at the Ghazipur border (Ghaziabad) for the last 150 days and Aulakh wants to campaign here for his party, which is anti-peasant. We had supported the BJP in 2014, 2017 and 2019, but now we are against it,” said Harveer Singh, a farmer and a resident of Matkhera.
He said circle officer Anuj Chaudhary with the help of the police made way for the minister’s convoy to return without meeting the villagers.
“The police also wielded lathis to disperse the crowd. The minister and the police tried to hush up the news of protest,” Singh added.
“It is our duty to ensure the safety of the people. The minister was in trouble and we took him away,” said a police officer who didn’t want to be named.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, which has been organising protests against the three controversial farm laws at Delhi’s borders, had called on farmers across the country to boycott BJP leaders and ministers and prevent them from entering their villages.
Sanjeev Balyan, minister of state for animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries, was forced out of Soram village in Muzaffarnagar on February 23. In retaliation, Balyan’s supporters and the police had allegedly attacked the villagers.
On April 10, the villagers of Abbas Nagar in Rampur had attacked some BJP workers when they went there to campaign for the party candidate in the panchayat polls. Roop Singh Baghel, a local police officer, said: “We came to know about the protest and rushed to the spot to maintain peace in the village. We have not received any formal complaint from any side.”
There is anger in western Uttar Pradesh against the BJP because many farmers of the region have died during the protests at the Delhi border.
Sardar Kashmir Singh, a 75-year-old peasant of Pasiapura village in Bilaspur, had committed suicide at the Ghazipur border on January 3.
Found hanging from the ceiling of a toilet, Singh had left a suicide note stating that he was anguished to see that the farmers had been sacrificing their lives to protect agriculture.