Modi’s big turn to the agricultural law reflects anxiety about the looming elections

Narendra Modi never admits his mistakes, even when the Indians are suffering tremendously because of his policies. But last week, the Prime Minister of India made a rare apology. He promised to repeal the controversial agricultural law after a year of protest. The results were shocking.

Modi insisted Agricultural reform ——Aim to open up the market to more companies to participate — there will be Increase farmers’ incomeBut he admitted that his Bharatiya Janata Party government failed to reach a consensus on changes that would affect millions of people.

“I want to say with a pure heart, maybe there are some shortcoming In our efforts, we were unable to explain a truth as clear as a flame to some of our farmer brothers,” Modi said in a special TV broadcast.

The Prime Minister suddenly decided to cancel one of the biggest economic reforms in his second term Political confrontation To show their determination, the farmers blocked the highway to New Delhi for a year.

Analysts said that this decline reflects the growing anxiety of the ruling party on its election prospects in India’s largest state and Uttar Pradesh, the current BJP headquarters next year. The result of this vote will set the tone for the 2024 national election.

The BJP’s overwhelming victory in the 2017 UP state elections helped the party establish an image that it is an unstoppable master and will surely win the 2019 general election. Modi’s party hopes to have a similar view next year, which will help raise funds and align disgruntled allies.

But farmers in Uttar Pradesh, especially those from the more prosperous western region, have been the driving force of anti-agricultural law protests, which increases the possibility of them leaving the BJP. This will be a further blow to the party, which has already been hit by the disappointing defeat in the May West Bengal state elections.

Milan Vashnaf, director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace, said: “This election will be regarded as a midterm referendum for the second term of the Modi government.” “They don’t want to just squeak – they want A loud noise created an invincible halo.”

Earlier this year, Narendra Modi (Narendra Modi) at a rally in West Bengal

Narendra Modi was campaigning in West Bengal before the state legislative elections this year, but his Bharatiya Janata Party was hit by a fiasco © Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images

Modi’s agricultural law attempts to open up to India’s strictly regulated agricultural market, allowing more companies to participate, allowing companies to buy directly from farmers, and stipulating the terms of contract agriculture. The prime minister argued that this would free growers from exploitative middlemen and give them more freedom to do business.

But influential landlord and peasant families—who get rich by selling basic grains to the government at guaranteed prices—are worried that these laws are a prelude to ending the state’s procurement model, making them vulnerable to the interests of powerful companies.

Modi’s surrender to the peasants will hit his well-honed image. He is a tough leader who can hardly accept public criticism. But Vaishnav said that considering the upcoming UP polls and new political opportunities in Punjab, the benefits of changing the course may outweigh the costs, and the ruling Congress party recently split in Punjab.

“This is smart politics,” he said. “BJP is considering two very important elections next year. The narrative is Anti-farmers, Benefiting from big companies and oppressing the poor may cause losses. This basically allows them to put these talking points aside. “

A man holding a sign: We are farmers, not terrorists

Although the department formed an important constituency, Modi and the BJP demonized farmers into unpatriotic terrorists © Altaf Qadri/AP

But many people doubt whether Modi’s pre-election change will immediately restore his once high popularity in the 200 million state’s influential districts.Protesters suffer Many difficulties During the sit-in, sometimes violent clashes with the police broke out. Modi — and the BJP’s social media actions — demonized farmers into unpatriotic terrorists and professional protesters who undermined the country’s progress.

Economists also warned that the failure of the proposed reforms could be a long-term setback to the economy. modernization Agriculture sector of India. Many people said that the industry needs comprehensive reforms to improve its economic and ecological sustainability.

Mekhala Krishnamurthy, a senior researcher at the New Delhi Policy Research Center, a think tank, said: “The worst possible outcome will be if people say,’Agriculture is a hot potato, you can’t touch it at all’… “It needs deep reforms. “

People’s Party Way Push the bill through parliament During the Covid-19 pandemic, few public consultations or reviews were conducted, heightening suspicion and fuelling Strongly opposedThe BJP’s long-time ally in Punjab also broke with Modi over the proposed law and withdrew from the government.

“this Damage caused It’s deep,” said Devesh Kapur, director of the Asia Program at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. “It’s not a flick of a switch. The protest continued for more than a year. “

After tasting the taste of victory, the farmers intend to fight for further concessions, such as writing the system of guaranteeing public procurement-at the lowest price-into the law, which will lead to an increase in already expensive agricultural subsidies. Some people say that these subsidies are misguided. NS.

The Bharatiya Kisan Union or Indian Farmers’ Union tweeted on Sunday: “Farmers have won, but they will not leave the border until all their requirements are met.”

But Kapoor said Modi’s tactical retreat was “an olive branch” that would enable the BJP to begin rebuilding its support in influential districts in strategic areas where the political opposition is still fragmented.

“You don’t have to win back all the farmers… You must win back enough people,” he said. “The People’s Party will send this message:’The Prime Minister never changes his mind. He insists on his principles, but he did it because of you.’ Some farmers will now give him doubtful benefits.”

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