Ships collect barnacles. The ship of protest sails through the storm of ideas, riding the restless tides of revolution. The farmers' siege of Delhi against the new Farm Bill is such a tide that has engulfed India. What started as agricultural unrest from Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan could soon become a national movement if farmers in other states join in.
Hence it's not surprising that the ship’s hull is teeming with barnacles - the Opposition parties. Barnacles weigh down a ship and damage its bottom. They corrode and cause it to drown. There are no parasites more dangerous than such politicians who adulterate, pervert or even discredit a popular movement with their greed. Fortunately, the striking farmers have resolutely stopped them from appropriating the stage.
Akhilesh Yadav went on dharna in their support and was booked by the UP Police, which snatched a brief respite from arresting consenting Hindu-Muslim couples. The Congress limped into the fray, despite its 2019 manifesto assuring the same mandi-middlemen-free laissez faire which the BJP's new Bill promises. Arvind Kejriwal dropped in as a "sevadar".
Eleven Opposition leaders got a Raisina Hill photo-op with President Kovind. The farmers, who arrived in their tractors and trucks, would have been disgusted by the sight of sleek cars carrying the netas up the gentle incline to Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Protests can destroy parties. It can revive parties. Unable to dent Modi’s electoral charisma and the BJP’s cadre power, Opposition leaders are trying to become self-appointed middlemen in the mandi of power. They hope the farmers will destroy BJP and revive their ramshackle outfits. The farmers are interested in neither. Three decades ago, farmer chieftain Mahendra Singh Tikait had paralysed Delhi with five lakh UP farmers.
In just a week, the Rajiv Gandhi government agreed to his 35-point charter that included a hike in sugarcane price and waiving electricity and water charges for farmers. This time, the nature of the beast is different.
Although 10 of 35 farmers unions participating are politically affiliated, the movement has not coalesced around a single chieftain like Tikait, Devi Lal or Chaudhary Charan Singh. Should protest without a face succeed it shows new hope for India.
It is suicidal for any government to refuse to concede to angry farmers. In India’s national iconography, the two most revered figures are the jawan and kisan. But the Modi government is not like any other: it doesn’t easily give in.
This farmers' movement is also unlike previous kisan agitations. A large portion of the young farmers are English savvy, technologically proficient and highly active on social media.
They have influential celebrities like Diljit Dosanjh standing up for them. Perhaps, the time is near when a new, young, grounded leadership could rise, forged in the fire of the agitation. All revolts are political, or end up being so. Career politicians taking up the opposition parking space for talent will be towed away by the new breed. Revolutions devour their children. Some others nourish them as leaders of the future.
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