CHANDIGARH: The BJP, already a marginal force in the border state of Punjab, appears to be fast losing whatever goodwill it has had among semi-rural areas of the state following the prolonged farmers’ agitation.
The saffron party has postponed the foundation stone-laying ceremony of 10 district offices in the state due to the stir. The party had decided to go it alone in all 117 assembly seats in the polls due early 2022.
The BJP has so far ridden piggyback on its trusted longtime ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in the state politics.
After the Akalis’ exit a few months back over the new farm laws, the BJP is now heading for a self-goal by antagonising Sikh voters.
The ruling Congress led by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has been fanning the fire by siding with the farmers, thus gaining the rural voters’ sympathy.
“I do not see any possibility of BJP recovering from the loss of face following the farmers’ stir. The party’s support in the 25 urban seats has dried up as the Congress has emerged a big player.
"Besides, the Jat-Sikh vote matters. The BJP has virtually become a leaderless organisation with the exception of Surjit Kumar Jayani who supports farmers,” says Prof Kuldeep Singh, a political analyst.
Punjab’s political significance is unique in the country – it has gone through more than a decade of terrorism and despite years of Green Revolution, the state’s rural distress persists.
Former Union minister and senior Akali leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal recently said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been wrongly advised on farmers’ issues by his bureaucrats and vested interests.
Political analyst Jagroop Singh Sekhon says that the farmers’ agitation would prove costly for the BJP.
“Punjab and Haryana have a very robust ‘rural mandi’ system which is perceived to be dismantled by the new laws. The farmers fear that corporatization of agriculture would cause more complications for their shrinking incomes,” he said. He says the BJP-SAD alliance was viewed as a unifying force in the communally sensitive state, which has now broken.