NEW DELHI: Amid mounting farm protest woes, the BJP has been on mute mode in a bid to avoid the Lakhimpur Kheri incident becoming a rallying ground for the Opposition to build a national narrative against the saffron outfit.
Top BJP functionaries refrained from making any comment on they incident even as party leaders admitted that the farm agitation is far from fizzling out, with the full scale of the damage in the approaching state polls is to be gauged.
Instruction is clear for senior BJP leaders that they must not make any comment while the UP government handles the issue as a localised incident.
BJP leaders, who spoke on condition of anonymity, maintained that the farm agitation will indeed be a poll issue at least in UP and Punjab, while polls in Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand may not be influenced by the farmer protests.
It was noted with concern in the BJP that PM Narendra Modi’s planned Lucknow programme, which was scheduled with the aim to gear up the party in the election mode on the development agenda, was largely overshadowed by the Lakhimpur Kheri incident.
“With the elections approaching in the five states, the farm agitation will only gain more strength as the window for climbdown for both the farmer unions and the Centre has been shut. This will hurt the BJP as it will be hard to counter the perception that the government isn’t listening to the farmers,” said a senior BJP leader.
A few party leaders were hard- pressed to explain the viral video showing the farmers being run over by a vehicle in Lakhimpur Kheri.
BJP MP Varun Gandhi shared the viral video, commenting that it can agitate anyone “as the occupants intentionally ran over the farmers”.
A worried BJP brass is likely to intervene soon in a bid to find a “temporary peace”.
Meanwhile, Bhartiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait on Tuesday gave a week's ultimatum to the Uttar Pradesh government for arresting Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Kumar Mishra's son, accused in an FIR of being behind farmers' death in Lakhimpur Kheri.
"We have given a week to the government to arrest the son of the Union MoS (Home). We all will gather here again on the day of 'bhog' (a ritual during the 13-day post-death mourning period) and then will discuss and decide the future strategy," Tikait told newspersons here.
Tikait, who visited the house of Gurvinder Singh, a farmer from Moharnia village here killed in the Lakhimpur violence, said the minister's son was seen by many people at the spot on the fateful day.
"People have several videos that will come up as soon as the net is restored," he said.
"The district administration has said they will arrest the minister's son in a week. If it does not happen, we will assemble at one place on the day of 'bhog' of all four farmers, when it is held in eight to ten days. We will then discuss and decide our next strategy," he added.
Tikait said people of the area have told him that the minister and his son are criminals.
"They are involved in diesel theft. They have three petrol pumps in Nepal where diesel is cheaper by Rs 15 to 20," he said.
Union MoS (Home) Misra's son Ashish Misra alias Monu has been named in an FIR lodged at a Lakhimpur Kheri police station.
According to a report from Lakhimpur Kheri, district officials on Tuesday night handed over compensation cheques of Rs 45 lakh each to the kin of two Kheri farmers under the agreement between agitating farmers and authorities.
The deceased farmers whose kin were given the compensation cheques are Lavpreet Singh of Palia tehsil and Nakshatra Singh of Dhaurahra tehsil.
Lakhimpur Information Office, in a statement on late Tuesday night, said Kheri District Magistrate Arvind Kumar Chaurasia handed over a cheque of Rs 45 lakh to the family members of deceased Lavpreet Singh at their residence at Chaukhara Farm.
It further said Chief Development Officer Anil Singh along with ADM (Finance & Revenue) Sanjay Kumar Singh reached Namdarpurwa in Dhaurahra tehsil and handed over the compensation cheque to the family members of Nakshatra Singh.
With regular traffic on roads and shops opening shutters, life slowly returned to normalcy on Tuesday in violence-hit Lakhimpur Kheri, a district shaken by violence during a farmers' protest two days back in which eight lives were lost.
Security personnel stood on guard at places on the way to Tikonia village where the incidents unfolded ahead of a visit to the district by Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya on Sunday.
Four of the dead were farmers, allegedly knocked down by vehicles driven by BJP workers travelling to welcome Maurya.
The others, including BJP workers, were allegedly dragged out of the vehicles and lynched.
Two days on, regular activities were witnessed near the Lakhimpur railway station and other market places where vendors and shops were operating as usual.
Children in uniform headed for schools and coaching institutes, and vehicles, including public transport, were plying normally in the district headquarters as well as in Tikonia, around 60 km away.
Binod Singh, a vendor near the railway station, said, "We have to take care of our livelihood also and that's why we are working."
Prohibitory orders under section 144 of CrPC is still in force in Lakhimpur and internet services restricted.
There was a substantial police presence in Naghasan tehsil on the way to Tikonia under which Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Kumar Mishra's native village, Banbirpur, falls.
The minister is in the eye of the storm, and an FIR has been registered against his son, Ashish Mishra, in connection with Sunday's incident.
There was a rush of people at the Gurdwara Kodhiwala Ghat Sahib, some distance away from the spot of the violence.
Many vehicles bearing registration numbers of Punjab, Uttarakhand and Haryana were parked at the gurdwara.
The Tikonia police station was functioning normally, but the personnel refused to entertain questions on the FIRs lodged and the subsequent action taken.
(With PTI Inputs)