Patna: Aside from the Opposition Mahagathbandhan – including Left parties – protesting against the Farm Laws in Bihar, former Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) is also making a stir. The party is conducting ‘Kisan Chaupals’ to create awareness against the laws and has threatened to launch a state-wide farmer protest on lines of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha has consistently called the laws “anti-farmer” and has made it clear that the party will oppose and protest against them in Bihar.
RLSP leaders here claimed that the party’s ongoing Kisan Chaupals have been getting a good response, more than what was expected. “RLSP’s Kisan Chaupals against the farm laws began from February 2 across the state and will continue till February 28.The farmers participating and attending them in village after village are expressing their anger against the laws,” RLSP leader Dhiraj Singh Kushwaha said.
According to him, the party has decided to hold nearly 10,000 Kisan Chaupals to protest against the laws. “We interact with farmers and explain to them why and how these three new laws are anti-farmer,” he said.
He mentioned that the meetings had been a success and sent a strong message to the farmers against the farm laws. “We tell them that if they do not oppose it today, they would be transformed into landless farmers from land owning farmers in case they are implemented,” he added.
Santosh Kushwaha, another RLSP leader, said that the farmers in Bihar may not be out on the streets agitating but they are angry and apprehensive about the laws. He said they understood that they were a “death warrant to farmers. We have visited several districts to mobilise farmers for the Kisan Chaupal and found that they are unhappy and ready to protest like in other states,” he added.
Santosh said that sensing the farmers’ mood the RLSP is planning on launching a state-wide farmers’ protest. “The party will take to streets against the laws soon,” he said.
By protesting against the laws passed by the BJP-led NDA’s Central Government, the RLSP has put to end all speculation of joining hands with the JD(U). Ahead of the Bihar Assembly Elections last year, the RLSP had quit the RJD-led Grand Alliance (Mahagathbandhan) and joined hands with the Bahujan Samaj Party.
Unlike BJP’s traditional support base among powerful upper castes and the RJD’s social support base among powerful OBCs (Yadavs) the RLSP has the backing of the Koeris, an agrarian OBC community.
Kushwaha belongs to the Koeri community which had protested against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens last year and vowed to stand for secularism and social justice. He was seen as an emerging leader three years ago after he resigned from the Narendra Modi cabinet.
It was Kushwaha who had directly attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his “lies” about NRC and detention centres.
The Koeri community is the largest social group after Lalu Prasad's Yadavs in Bihar; it is widely seen as a big challenge to the BJP and Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) in state politics.
Two days ago, a chakka jam in Bihar by the Mahagathbandhan – including Left parties and the Jan Adhikar Party – in protest against the farm laws and the government’s use of force against farmers in Delhi was near total.
Unlike the intended three-hour protest in other states, the chakka jam by farmers and supported by the opposition was conducted for only an hour between 2 pm and 3 pm in view of the ongoing intermediate exams. The protesting farmers’ umbrella body and opposition parties had decided that it would not inconvenience students.
The Mahagathbandhan has organised several protests against the Farm Laws over the past month. Nearly two-thirds of Bihar’s total population of 12 crore is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. Most of them are small and marginal farmers, as per government data. Moreover, nearly two-third of all agricultural activities in the state is dependent on rainfall.
Agriculture is the backbone of Bihar’s economy, employing 81% of the workforce and generating nearly 42% of the state’s gross domestic product, according to state government’s figures.