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Farmers Don’t Need Jayant Chaudhary to Save Legacy of Chaudhary Charan Singh

A staunch opposer of communalism, Charan Singh’s commitment to secular politics is well recorded. If Jayant had known the moral weight that his political legacy carries, he would never have gone along with the government which is built on the foundations of Hindutva politics and communalism.
Farmers' Protest

Image for representational purpose.

The year was 1979. This year is especially important for me for two reasons. First, my elder brother was born this year. Second, the country got its first farmer prime minister, Chaudhary Charan Singh. Charan Singh and his politics had such a strong influence on our rural-agrarian society that my brother was named Charan Singh after him. When he grew up a little, the children in the village funnily distorted his name, as people often do in their childhood. When my father took him to school for admission, the teacher said it is very easy to ‘spoil’ his name, so it would be better to change it. My father, being a farmer himself, was okay with changing his son's name, but wasn’t ready to accept at any cost the fun made around Chaudhary Charan Singh’s name. Ultimately my brother's name was changed and thus Charan Singh's name was ‘saved’ at that time.

But on February 9, 2024, as part of the ruling party BJP’s yet another political gimmick, Chaudhary Charan Singh's name was included in the names to be awarded Bharat Ratna. The next day in Parliament, his grandson and the national president of Rashtriya Lok Dal, Jayant Chaudhary compared Charan Singh with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government with the Modi government which is known for its vehement anti-farmer politics. As I look at these recent political developments and reminisce about my childhood memories, I feel a sense of anger. This anger stems from the fact that while ordinary farmers like my father remained so deeply connected to their leader’s legacy, it is Charan Singh’s grandson Jayant Chaudhary himself who has left no stone unturned to bring disgrace to his name and political inheritance.

What is it if not a disgrace that the government which has taken the martyrdom of more than 730 farmers in the farmers' movement during its rule, is equated with Charan Singh's government? It is the same government that has given a place in its Cabinet to those who trampled the farmers under tyres in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri. Does it even make sense to compare BJP’s rule under which farmers’ debt has increased manifold to Charan Singh’s government which created an institution like NABARD and put in place an extensive system of subsidies for farmers on a massive scale? Lest we forget, it is the same government that is consistently shielding and protecting Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh who has been accused of sexual harassment by India’s top female wrestlers, all hailing from farming backgrounds.

By deciding to enter the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Jayant Chaudhary, the political heir of Chaudhary Charan Singh's name has completely sidelined his ideology and ruined his legacy. A staunch opposer of communalism, Charan Singh’s commitment to secular politics is well recorded. If Jayant had known the moral weight that his political legacy carries, he would never have gone along with the government which is built on the foundations of Hindutva politics and communalism.

Some questions must also be raised over Jayant’s handling of his grandfather’s political and ideological legacy over all these years. You will not even be able to find the office of the Kisan Trust which is responsible for publishing the thoughts and works of Charan Singh. The office of Kisan Trust is in a room at the back of the residence given to Jayant Choudhary as a Rajya Sabha member. Leave aside the complete absence of books written on and by Charan Singh in the market, in the trust office itself, it is extremely difficult to find even ten relevant books around his political and economic thought. Some of the books written by Charan Singh have been out of publication for years now. In his speech in Parliament, admiring the conferment of Bharat Ratna to his grandfather, Jayant Chaudhary said that now many more people will know about Chaudhary Charan Singh and readers will read about him. But Jayant Choudhary, who, as the president of Kisan Trust, showed no interest in publishing anything on Charan Singh, should also tell from where those interested in reading about him will do so.

I will not go into the depths of the political advantages and disadvantages of Jayant’s support to the NDA because someone even with a very general understanding of politics can tell that Rashtriya Lok Dal, being a regional party, is at the utmost disadvantage from such an opportunistic alliance. Forgetting about the lifeline given to his moribund party by the recent farmers' movement, Jayant Chaudhary has taken this decision at a time when the Farmers Protests 2.0 is knocking at the doors of Delhi. Perhaps, he has forgotten all the anti-farmer actions taken by the Modi government and the martyrdom of more than 700 farmers at Delhi’s borders for his immediate political gains, but most of his voters and supporters will never forget the political values that farming communities hold, especially those who have protected and shielded the historic legacy of farmers’ movement and that of Chaudhary Charan Singh. Though these people cannot stop Jayant Chaudhary from changing sides, they will certainly make sure that the political legacy of Charan Singh remains untainted. No matter what, ordinary farmers, as my father did decades ago, will make sure that Chaudhary Charan Singh's name is not allowed to be tarnished.

The author is an independent journalist and researcher. The views are personal.

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