Hours before filing his nomination on April 15, Amra Ram, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate from Sikar, Rajasthan, said in a public meeting, “The government has money for the big businessmen. They have money for the Adanis and Ambanis. But what do they have for the farmers? Nothing. Which is why we farmers have to fight now.”
This public meeting happened in the same Krishi Upaj Mandi where the farmers from the Sekhawati region of Rajasthan, under the banner of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), the farmers’ body of CPI(M), and led by Amra Ram, had created a massive movement that lasted 13 days, in September 2017. The farmers had protested demanding better prices for their crops, loan waiver, and relaxation in the strict rules that now govern the trade in farm animals. Farmers from the districts of Sikar, Churu, and Jhunjhunu sat in protest in the main markets, surrounded government offices, and blocked roads. After the 13-day long agitation, the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government in the state was forced to give in to the farmers’ demands.
Rajasthan had witnessed yet another farmers’ uprising earlier this year, in the months of February and March. Thousands of onion farmers across the state had congregated in Sikar to protest against the silence of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on the crashing onion prices in the state. The agitation lasted nine days, after which the government had finally given the farmers a written assurance that their issues will be looked into.
Also Read: Sikar: No Longer Just a Farmers’ Movement, But a People’s Movement for Farmers
In the last five years of Modi government in the country, agrarian crisis has been one of the issues that has come up again and again, along with unprecedented levels of unemployment and continuous attacks on public-funded higher education. The country has seen massive farmers’ movements, from the Kisan Long March from Nasik to Mumbai, protests of farmers from Tamil Nadu in Jantar Mantar in Delhi, the massive farmers agitations in Rajasthan, to the Kisan Long March in Delhi.
Several states across the country has seen a massive rise in farmer suicides in the last five years. Farmers’ suicide in Maharashtra has doubled in the years of BJP government in the country. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has not released the Accidental Deaths and Suicides (ADSI) report since the year 2016, which acted as a crucial source for farmers’ suicides. The Narendra Modi government has been repeatedly accused of suppressing crucial data that was supposed to be released by various government bodies.
Why Parliament Needs a Farmer Leader
Talking to NewsClick, Badal Saroj, the all-India Joint Secretary of AIKS said, “It is only since the last few elections that people from the working classes are being represented in the Parliament. Apart from the left political parties, no one fields candidates from the working class. It’s the same for farmers. The real farmers, who understand the agrarian crisis, who are living this agrarian crisis, they do not get tickets to fight the elections from the bourgeois political parties. So, there is no one in the Parliament who can talk about the issues really being faced by farmers and agricultural workers across the country.”
He added, “In the current situation, when the agrarian crisis is slowly killing farmers across the country, it is important for farmers to understand that only someone who can relate to their struggles, their issues, can represent them in the Parliament.”
Also Read: Farmers March in Rajasthan Despite Police Crackdown
Saroj also said, “When we talk about farmers, it’s not just them we are talking about. Everyone in this country is dependent on the farmers for their survival – be it the middle class, or the upper class. Even the richest people need to eat to survive.”
The farmers who joined the nomination rally of Amra Ram said the same thing. They said, a farmer leader does not just work for the farmers, he also works for everyone else. The candidates of other parties work for the welfare of a certain class of people, if they work for welfare at all.
The BJP candidate from this constituency is Sumedhanand Saraswati, who contested the Lok Sabha elections from same constituency in 2014, on the demand of Baba Ramdev, and won. However, the local leadership of BJP consider him an outsider as he hails from Haryana, and his candidacy had reportedly made them very angry.
The Congress candidate is Subhash Maharia, who was previously a BJP leader. He had left BJP accusing the party of not working for the welfare of the working class. He contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as an independent candidate, and later joined INC in 2016.
Also Watch: Rajasthan Farmers Will Continue Their Protest: Amra Ram
Talking to NewsClick, Pushpa, a member of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), Jaipur, said, “The leaders of all other parties contest elections for winning. If they ever work for the people, they do so only before the elections. Amra Ram is not like them. He has always worked for the welfare of farmers, without caring about winning elections. He has always dedicatedly led the farmers’ movements in the state.”
On Friday, May 3, Modi addressed a public meeting in Sikar. However, conveniently choosing to ignore the farmers completely, he talked about national security, once again using the Pulwama attack and Uri surgical strike to provoke the people. Modi has again and again used nationalism as a weapon to ask for votes. Even in Sikar, it looked like his main focus was on finding out how loudly the crowd could chant “Bharat Mata ki Jai.”