NEW DELHI: Ahead of the UP polls, the Congress is looking to connect the Lakhimpur episode with the ongoing farmers’ agitation to make a double-pronged attack on the BJP.
On the other hand, leaders of the BJP on Monday maintained a studied silence over the incident even as they sought to suggest that it was a localised issue, which is being handled “efficiently” by the Uttar Pradesh government.
Sources from the Congress hinted that a major “emotive issue” has landed for the party to be pursued in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere.
“It will certainly evoke more emotion amongst the electorates than the issues of corruptions or others. A strategy is being planned to take the Lakhmipur-Kheri violence as one of the major issues against the BJP government,” a party insider said.
If the plan falls in place, the party is looking to build up a mass movement against the ruling BJP-led government in Delhi. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra gave a hint of the party’s plan.
“We will take this issue to the people. The BJP government is crushing down farmers. The farmers are being crushed, killed, harassed, suppressed and exploited,” she alleged, adding that the people would give a befitting reply to the “tyranny” of BJP government in UP.
Sources said that the party would compile all “atrocities” committed by the BJP government against the farmers in the name of implementation of the new farm laws, for higlighting them to the people ahead of the polls.
Understandably, the BJP slammed opposition leaders for making a beeline for the violence-hit district. Senior BJP leader B L Santhosh alleged that a bad precedent is being set by the opposition parties.
“A dangerous precedent is being forced into our system by the increasingly radicalised INC(Congress). (The) Congress CMs want to visit Lakhimpur Kheri. What if tomorrow other party CMs also decide to
visit every violent incident in Congress-ruled states,” Santhosh tweeted.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi must sack Union minister Ajay Mishra over the violence here which left eight people dead, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Jayant Chaudhary demanded on Monday after meeting families of the victims in the village.
Chaudhary also claimed the villagers told him during the meeting that the violence appeared "pre-meditated" and hoped the Uttar Pradesh government led by Yogi Adityanath "does not prosecute farmers".
The violence had broken out on Sunday during an anti-farm laws protest ahead of UP Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya's visit to Banbirpur, the native village of Union Minister of State Home Ajay Mishra.
Mishra's son Ashish and BJP supporters are accused of running over farmers in their SUVs, while the minister claims his son was not present there during the incident.
The RLD president met the family of Gurvendra Singh (18) at their village in the Tikonia area here around 6 pm, after a gruelling 13-hour-long journey from Delhi that forced him to change routes, vehicles and even walk on foot amid heavy police security along the way that was put to prevent politicians from reaching here.
"I visited the family of Gurvendra Singh. He was just 18 years old. The family is impoverished, his father is a construction worker. I met his two sisters who told me they would serve their parents. It was such a bold thing for them to say," Chaudhary told PTI over the phone.
"I spoke to the other villagers also and was told that the SUVs which ran over the farmers had sticks attached to their front portion and it was done to enhance the impact of the collision. This proves it was a pre-meditated, inhuman and depraved act of crime that we have witnessed in Lakhimpur Kheri," the former Lok Sabha MP alleged.
He urged Modi to sack the Union minister from his Cabinet and ensure strictest action against him, his son and others who are proved guilty.
Chaudhary also hit out at the UP government for preventing political leaders from meeting the families of the violence victims.
"We are beholden to serve the people as public representatives. The UP government's orders are against the rules," he said, even as leaders of the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party made failed bids to reach Lakhmipur on Monday.
The RLD leader, a vocal critic of Adityanath and supporter of farmers demanding the repeal of three contentious central farm laws, said he hoped the UP government "does not start prosecuting farmers" in the wake of Sunday's violence.
Chaudhary said by the time he reached Lakhimpur, a panchayat of villagers was also convened locally to discuss the matter.
"I hope the state government honours the commitment it has towards the people and meets the demands of the villagers and families of the victims of the violence," he added.
The Uttar Pradesh government on Monday announced that a retired High Court judge will probe the Lakhimpur Kheri violence and that the families of the four farmers killed in the incident will be given Rs 45 lakh compensation.
The government will also give Rs 10 lakh to those injured in the violence, said Additional Chief Secretary, Home, Awanish Awasthi.
"An agreement has been reached with the farmers. The government will give Rs 45 lakh to the family members of the four farmers who were killed in the violence on Sunday. Besides, one member from their families will be given a government job at the local level," he said.
"The government will give Rs 10 lakh to the injured and get the incident probed by a retired High Court judge," he said.
Two FIRs have been registered in connection with Sunday's violence that broke out after two SUVs allegedly ran over a group of anti-farm law protesters who were demonstrating against a visit of Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya.
Eight people were killed in the violence.
While four of the deceased were farmers, the remaining were in a convoy of BJP workers who were lynched.
Ashish Mishra, the son of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra, is among those booked by police.
Additional Director General (Law and Order) of Uttar Pradesh Police Prashant Kumar, who is in Lakhimpur Kheri, announced the state government's decision regarding the probe and compensation in the presence of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait.
"The officials will be in touch with a committee of farmers to address other issues, if any," Kumar said.
The entire incident will be thoroughly probed and stringent action will be taken against those found guilty, he said.
"Now, the post-mortem examination of the bodies will be conducted after the 'panchnama' as per the due legal process ahead of their last rites," he said.
Additional Chief Secretary Devesh Chaturvedi said, "The incident was unfortunate and a thorough probe will be conducted."
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of farm unions, has written to President Ram Nath Kovind, demanding that MoS, Home, Ajay Mishra be sacked and a murder case filed against his son.
Sunday's violence was the bloodiest yet in the prolonged farmers' protest against the Centre's new agri laws that began last year.
Angry farmers also set on fire two SUVs during the clash near Banbirpur.
(With PTI Inputs)