Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait during an interview with PTI, in New Delhi, Tuesday, April 16, 2024.
Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait during an interview with PTI, in New Delhi, Tuesday, April 16, 2024.Photo | PTI

INTERVIEW| Farmers disillusioned with political parties, but will continue their fight: Rakesh Tikait

The farm leader claimed that today's BJP is no longer just a political party and has become a front for rich industrialists who are out to grab farmers' lands.

NEW DELHI: Asserting that farmers are disillusioned with all political parties, prominent farmer leader Rakesh Tikait on Tuesday said people should follow their conscience by voting for the right candidates in the Lok Sabha elections.

Refusing to extend open support to any political party, Tikait said he won't even tell his wife whom to vote for when the model code of conduct is in place but those who know him already know which party or candidate is good for farmers.

In an exclusive interaction with PTI, Tikait, one of the key faces of the 2020–21 farmers' protest against the now-scrapped three agri-laws, also claimed that people are not voting for the BJP but the party may still win as he alleged manipulation in the process.

He claimed that today's BJP is no longer just a political party and has become a front for rich industrialists who are out to grab farmers' lands.

“Farmers ka moh-bhang ho gaya hai, lekin wo hataash nahin hain (Farmers are disillusioned but they have not lost hope).

"They'll cast their votes and come back to join the protest,” he said when asked whether farmers and the Jat community have become disillusioned with all parties, including the BJP, Congress, SP, BSP and RLD.

The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader said the farmers can vote for anyone as per their conscience but they must stay with the movement.

“NOTA (None of the above) should not be pressed. Only those who press the NOTA button have lost any hope,” Tikait said.

Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait during an interview with PTI, in New Delhi, Tuesday, April 16, 2024.
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Asked what would be his advice for farmers and his community, the prominent Jat leader said, “We have told people to vote as per their conscience."

"Vote for the candidate you find right, one who would listen to you, and then come back to the 'andolan',” he said.

“To the candidates who are fighting, we have told them if you can gather 100 tractors and one thousand people 24 hours before the counting in your constituency, you will win. Those who will not have those numbers will lose,” he said.

Tikait stressed that neither he nor his outfit supported the BJP in 2014, though they may have backed some individual candidates.

He also said that at that time, the BJP, as the main opposition party, had made many promises to the farmers and there was hope that they would bring some changes.

“When a party is in opposition, they raise people's voices. When the Congress was in power, we were opposing them, they (BJP) made many promises, they used to be with us in the meetings,” he said.

“Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, Rajnath Singh participated in our meetings several times. They even shared the stage with us. Opposition had a major role in pushing the Land Acquisition Act (Right to Fair. Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013). We thought a better government would come, we did not oppose anyone, we went with the people,” he said.

Asked about the mood in western Uttar Pradesh, which goes to polls on April 19 in the first phase of general elections, he said, “No one tells the candidate (whether they are voting for them). Whoever comes is welcomed. Voting happens based on caste lines, religion, and who is the candidate.”

Alleging possible manipulation in the elections by the ruling party and local administration, Tikait said, “This happened in UP assembly polls, they would have won less than 80 seats, but officially they got 255.”

“If one joins the BJP, there is a guarantee of victory. In Muzaffarnagar and Shyamli there are nine seats. Eight seats were with the BJP and one with the Samajwadi Party in the previous assembly polls… In the last assembly poll (2022), the opposition won eight seats, and the BJP got one,” he said.

“They would not have won more than 65–70 seats in the entire UP. They used a formula of ‘one DM, one seat' because their party was not winning. So they said one district magistrate would make them win one seat. This is nowhere on paper,” he claimed but did not elaborate on the allegations.

Asked whether he is talking about EVM manipulation as alleged by some opposition leaders, Tikait said, “What is the need to manipulate EVMs? Has there ever been a recount of an EVM?

“After losing, a candidate has three options: they can go to the Election Commission, but they don't do that. The second way is to go to court, but they don't go to court. The third option is to go to the BJP headquarters to join and they use the third option.”

Tikait further said a "neta bhartti abhiyan" (campaign to induct leaders) is in full swing in the BJP.

“There are three types of joinings. The first category is of those happening over breakfast. They say we don't want anything except respect. The second ones join after lunch. They have greed as well, there are businesses to run.

“The third category is those who join in the night, they are made to join by force. If the king wants you to come to his side, you will have to go. Joinings are open, one can join the way they want,” he quipped.

Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait during an interview with PTI, in New Delhi, Tuesday, April 16, 2024.
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