Farmers led by Rakesh Tikait will travel to Bengal on tractors on 5th April
If Prime Minister Narendra Modi looks down from his helicopter on the campaign trail in Bengal next month, chances are he might spot what he is refusing to see from Delhi: tractors.
Farmers led by Rakesh Tikait will travel to Bengal on tractors on April 5 and stay on in an attempt to ensure the defeat of the BJP.
“Woh toh helicopter mein chalega, hum peechhe peechhe tractor mein chalenge (Modi will travel in a helicopter, we will follow him in tractors),” Tikait, a leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Tikait), told The Telegraph from Jodhpur on Friday. A mahapanchayat was held in Calcutta on Friday.
“The fight against the BJP is now going on in Bengal. The need for us is to stay there. I will reach Bengal with tractors on April 5 to ensure the defeat of the BJP for inflicting pain on peasants,” he added.
The BKU is part of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha that is leading the fight against the contentious farm laws of the Centre.
The Morcha held a rally in Calcutta on Friday. It has appealed to farmers to defeat the BJP in the upcoming elections in Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry but made it clear it would not campaign for any particular party.
Tikait said it was necessary to expose the “company raj” that the BJP government at the Centre planned to impose on the farmers and people at large.
Tikait became a symbol of the resistance against the three farm laws when his emotional speech in the face of an eviction order and massive force deployment on January 28 at the Ghazipur border led to a spontaneous mobilisation of people from several hundred miles away through the night.
“Since then, Tikait, along with other leaders of the Morcha, has been holding hugely attended kisan mahapanchayats to tell the people about the danger that farmers and ordinary people face from the BJP,” said a senior leader of the Morcha who will take part in a rally along with the BKU leader in Nandigram on Saturday.
Invited by a group of Sikh sympathisers of the farm protest, Morcha leaders will address two rallies in Calcutta and one in Nandigram on Saturday to tell the people not to vote for the BJP.
On March 14, the leaders, barring Tikait who will leave the city on Sunday, will travel to Singur and Asansol to urge people to vote against the BJP.
“We will ask them to vote for any party they like but not the BJP. Voting for the BJP is detrimental to the national interest,” Tikait said before signing off to board a train to Jaipur, from where he will fly to Calcutta on Saturday morning.
In its appeal to farmers in the election-bound states, the Morcha urged farmers to teach the “power-hungry, anti-farmer BJP” that it is not wise to pit itself against peasants, hoping that its demands would be met if the “arrogance of the party can be broken”.
“We have understood that the Modi government does not understand the language of truth, of goodness, of justice, of constitutional values, etc. However, it understands the language of votes, seats and power. You now have the power of denting their quest for votes, seats and power.”
The Morcha said in the letter: “The SKM... is only asking you not to vote for the BJP. We are not advocating for any particular party. We have only one appeal — do not vote even by mistake to the lotus symbol.”
About their specific demand for the repeal of the three contentious farm laws, the SKM pointed out that the BJP dispensation had brought these legislation to “dismantle any meagre protection from the government for poor farmers and consumers, and instead facilitate the expansion of private corporations and big capital”.
It added that the laws had been enacted without any consultation with farmers. “These are laws that will destroy our future as well as our future generations.”
The SKM also said the BJP government had “discredited and maligned farmers” who were protesting against the new laws, called them names and “insulted them continuously”.
About the 12 meetings with the Centre that failed to break the impasse, the SKM said the “BJP government’s ministers pretended to hold multiple rounds of consultations with farmer leaders but in reality, did not even listen carefully to what the farmers had to say”.
Stating that the BJP was keen on making inroads in the southern states, the SKM noted that this was the time when farmers in Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, Bengal and Assam could teach a lesson to the “power-hungry, anti-farmer BJP”.
“The BJP should learn a lesson that it is not wise to pit itself against the farmers of India. If you manage to teach them this lesson, the arrogance of the party can be broken, and we can get the demands of the ongoing farmers’ movement fulfilled,” the SKM said.
At a news conference in Calcutta, farm leaders iterated that they would visit all the poll-bound states and ask people “to not vote for the BJP”.
“We have come to Bengal now. But our plan is to visit all five states where Assembly elections will happen. We will tell the people in these states to not vote for the BJP. We will tell the people that the policies of the Modi government will destroy the peasantry and our country,” said SKM leader Balbir Singh Rajewal.
The leaders said they had decided to go to all 29 states and explain the anti-farmer laws to farmers. “We have a mahapanchayat in Bhubaneswar on March 20 and in Bangalore on March 22,” Hannan Mollah, another SKM leader, said.
The SKM will circulate the letter written to the farmers in all 294 Assembly constituencies of the state.
“The Modi government does not understand the difference between good and bad. It only understands votes, seats and satta (power). We have to hurt them through votes,” said farm union leader Yogendra Yadav.
Additional reporting by our Delhi and Calcutta bureaus