The farmers of western UP have been affected by the farmers’ protest and will have voted on the lines of their issues
How has the farmer-dominated region of western Uttar Pradesh voted? That is the question on everyone’s minds as voters cast their ballots in 58 constituencies spread across 11 districts in the first phase of the mammoth UP assembly polls February 10, 2022.
The region, dominated by Jats, had witnessed communal violence in 2013 in the Kawal village of Muzaffarnagar district. The 2013 Muzaffarnagar Riots swayed the Jat vote in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which swept to power in 2017.
Some 53 of the 58 seats that went to the polls today are held by the BJP in the outgoing assembly. The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party hold two seats each, while the Rashtriya Lok Dal holds one.
But will the BJP repeat its 2017 victory? How has the year-long 2020-21 farmers’ protest at the border crossings of Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur in Delhi affected public opinion?
Western UP sets the trends for who eventually takes power in Lucknow. No wonder, several political leaders have been campaigning and camping in the region in the run-up to the election.
One of them was Prime Minister Narendra Modi. One of his last rallies was on February 7. It was a virtual one and aimed at voters in Bijnor.
Why virtual? Modi said the rally was converted into that format as weather conditions were not permitting a physical one. However, according to experts, the real reason was that Bijnor’s political weather has been stormy of late.
Why? Modi had begun his electoral campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections from Bijnor. With a physical rally, of course.
Modi had promised during the 2014 Bijnor rally that farmers would get payment for their cane crops in 14 days instead of 15. They would get payment with interest in case it was not made on time, he had added.
He had also talked about setting up a ‘Chaudhary Charan Singh Fund’ in memory of the erstwhile prime minister of India, who was also a towering farmer leader.
But Modi did not dwell upon this during his virtual rally nearly eight years later. He just enumerated about what his government had done regarding disbursement of cane arrears and buying of cane produce.
Farmers in Bijnor would have reminded Modi about his 2014 promises if he had staged a physical rally in the town. Which is why he opted for a virtual one, say experts.
Modi also staked claim to the legacy of Charan Singh in his virtual rally.
However, he was seen trying to escape the shadow of the farmers’ protest during most of his speech February 7.
The Union Budget 2022-23 too could play a role in blunting the BJP advance this time, experts say. The budget could have ensured that the annual PM-KISAN payment to farmers could have been increased to Rs 12,000 from Rs 6,000. But that did not happen.
Farmers also expected subsidies on seeds, fertilisers and pesticides. That too did not materialise.
Farmer leader Digambar Singh said farmers in the region are dismayed at being ignored in the Union Budget 2022-23. That and the Lakhimpuri-Kheri affair will have weighed heavily on their minds when they would have voted February 10.
Cane prices and late payment for cane crops are big issues for voters in western UP. Farmers say they are not getting prices for cane that are commensurate to their input costs. What is more, sugar mills do not pay arrears to them, often for 14 months.
The total arrears for cane were Rs 4,445 crore, according to a reply by the Centre in Parliament December 10, 2022. UP’s share in this was Rs 3,752 crore.
Farmers said payment of arrears had been speeded up ever since the polls were announced.
Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth
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