As the tide of farmers at the Ghazipur border swells, the impact of the protest against the three farm laws across western Uttar Pradesh is becoming evident, with banners coming up in villages of Bijnor, Shamli, and Ghaziabad voicing villagers’ anger against the BJP leaders and its supporters.
In Banthla village of Loni, a banner says the village boycotts Loni MLA Nand Kishore Gurjar. The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) has alleged that Mr. Gurjar was present at the Ghazipur protest site on the evening of January 28 with his supporters and would have assaulted farmers had union leader Rakesh Tikait not stood firm. In Bijnor’s Rashidpur Garhi, the banner takes a more aggressive tone.
The banners follow an oblique appeal at the well-attended panchayats (farmers’ gatherings) in Muzaffarnagar and Baghpat urging people to boycott those who were against the farmers.
At the Bajna panchayat in Mathura, Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Jayant Chaudhary made a similar appeal to socially ostracise those opposing the farmers.
Sources in the BJP agree that Mr. Gurjar’s actions did hurt party’s image in the sugarcane belt but add that the MLA has a tendency to comment on every issue and loves to court controversies
“He is a bayaan bahadur (warrior with words) who loves to court controversies. What he did was in his individual capacity and a clear deviation from the party line,” insisted a BJP member from Loni requesting anonymity.
Local sources say Mr Gurjar has a running feud with the municipality chairman Ranjeeta Dhama, whose husband was a contender for the party ticket from Loni. The banner might be a ploy to ruin his prospects for the future, some suggest.
After the incidents of January 28, Mr Gurjar tried to present himself as a Gurjar leader but the BKU was quick to neutralise the attempt with Madan Bhaiya, a Gurjar heavyweight and a four-time MLA, , coming out support of protesting farmers.
A Jat BJP leader agreed there is anger but it is more of an “emotional issue” about the “dignity of the community” rather than mass opposition of farm laws.
“Anyway, now we have something to defend in elections rather just praising our achievements,” he chuckled, underlining how people in the region had been donating huge amounts for the construction of the Ram Temple.
Surya Mani Raghuvanshi, editor of an eveninger in Bijnor, said while the banners are being removed by the administration, the resentment against the ruling party is palpable. “However, its result would be clear only after the panchayat elections.”
Naseer Shah, a senior advocate in Mathura who raises issues of farmers, said anger was brewing in the region but it found an expression after the emotional outburst of Mr Tikait.
“After the mahapanchayat in Bajna, several small panchayats are being organised in various parts of the district. On Monday, a meeting was organised in Baldev area where about 1000 farmers participated. This is significant because earlier even if there was a call, not more than 100 turned up for such panchayats,” he said.
Yudhvir Singh, general secretary of BKU said the banners were not put up by the outfit. “We don’t have the budget to put posters nor do we target supporters of any particular party. Our job is to raise issues of farmers irrespective of the government in power. It might be the doing of the locals.”
Mr Singh reminded the Ram Temple issue was also an “emotional” one. “We are a country of emotional people. The government promised to double the income of farmers. That remains a tempting jumla. It has yet to come up with a formula to make it a reality,” he said.