Farmers protest. (Photo | EPS)
Farmers protest. (Photo | EPS)

Democracy’s victory shows limits of parliamentary power

The BJP has been on the backfoot in UP, particularly in the western part dominated by the farming community.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sudden and rather unexpected announcement to repeal the three contentious farm laws is only the second occasion when the government he leads has had to blink in the face of massive opposition. The first one was when it had to withdraw the proposed land reforms laws. In a brief address to the nation, Modi apologised to the citizens and regretted that he was not able to explain the benefits of the laws to a section of farmers who have been agitating for more than a year against them.

But while the pushback on the land reforms bill was enacted more in the hallowed portals of Parliament, the opposition to the farm laws was largely on the streets led by ordinary farmers. So if at all, the government’s U-turn on the controversial laws is a victory only of the farmers, no one else’s. Many opposition parties tried to ride on the farmers’ agitation for their selfish political and electoral gains, but the government would not have yielded had it not been for the sacrifices of the hands that till and feed the country. It also underlines the fact that in a democracy, it is the will of the people that is supreme, that sustained public pressure can unsettle even powerful governments enjoying a brute majority in Parliament, and that there is still space for dissent, despite what many critics of this government may say of its style of functioning and behaviour.

But that said, the government’s about-turn appears to be dictated purely by the political damage the laws had the potential to inflict in the coming Assembly elections, particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The BJP has been on the backfoot in UP, particularly in the western part dominated by the farming community. The region has 136 Assembly seats out of a total 403 and in the last state polls, the BJP had won a massive 109 of them. Uttarakhand is also critical to the saffron party and here also it is facing an uphill task. Going forward, the government must make it a point to hold wide consultations, especially when it has to tread on the slippery surface of economic reforms.

The New Indian Express