Chandigarh: The political ‘wedge’ between the coalition partners in Haryana — the BJP and the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) — is widening with the talks between the Centre and the protesting farmers remaining inconclusive despite four rounds of negotiations.
Now, the issue of ‘irritant’ in the just one-year old government led by BJP leader Manohar Lal Khattar is the registration of hundreds of cases against the farmers for violence, breach of barricades and causing disruption in discharge of duty by government employees.
JJP President and Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala has been maintaining stoic silence in public over the issue, his firebrand younger brother Digvijay Chautala is taking the government to task almost daily.
He has demanded that the cases against farmers must be withdrawn.
“We will talk to the Chief Minister and the Home Minister to tell them to withdraw cases against farmers so that situation does not worsen and any kind of mistrust is not created,” Digvijay Chautala told the media on Thursday.
Without mincing words, he added: “To protest peacefully is the fundamental right of the farmers.”
Digvijay, who heads the youth wing of the JJP, said senior party leaders have been waiting for the outcome of the meeting of farmers with the government.
He categorically said the party will discuss its future course of action after the meeting.
The JJP is primarily a rural Jat-centric party with the farmers as its core vote bank. The Jat, a dominant farming community, comprises 28 per cent of state’s population.
Twenty-five Jat leaders, comprising four Chautalas, were elected to the state assembly in October 2019.
Coming out openly for the first time with the protesting farmers, JJP national chief and former MP, Ajay Singh Chautala, on December 2 said the Centre should give, in writing, an assurance on the minimum support price (MSP) to the protesting farmers that largely comprises from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
“When Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union Agriculture Minister are repeatedly saying the MSP will continue, what is the harm in adding that line,” Ajay Chautala told the media.
“We want that there should be a solution to this at the earliest. We have requested those in government that a solution to the farmers’ problems should be found,” he added.
Political observers believe pressure on the JJP within the party to withdraw its support to the state government has been gaining as the BJP Central leadership has been adopting ‘tough posture’ on its three new agricultural laws even at the end of four rounds of talks that remained inconclusive so far.
The farmers have been insisting to scrap the ‘black’ farm laws in totality, but the Central government is willing to amend a few provisions of laws.
“The demand to quit the government has been getting louder with a large number of farmer and employee organizations and even locals have been coming out openly to support the farmers who have gathered along borders of the national capital for last nine days,” a senior JJP functionary admitted to IANS on Friday.
He said even decision of 130 khap panchayats (community courts) to join the ongoing farmer agitation on Delhi borders is an issue of concern for the party.
The importance of the khaps, especially in the politically dominant Jat community, is such that even Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at a rally in Jind, had to seek their blessings for the BJP for the October 15, 2014 assembly elections.
Also, believe political observers, the JJP is facing an ‘internal rumblings’ as its leaders have been saying if BJP’s Punjab ally Akali Dal could reject the lure of office and stand up for its principles to “to save the beleaguered peasantry”, then why not the JJP.
Ahead of Ajay Chautala’s assertions, his party’s legislator Jogiram Sihag turned down the government’s offer of a Chairmanship last month, saying he will not accept any office of profit till the farm laws guarantee the MSP.
Ajay Chautala is the elder son of four-time Chief Minister and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) President Om Prakash Chautala.
Till party chief Dushyant Chautala is Deputy Chief Minister, he won’t let the MSP be discontinued, added a party spokesperson.
If farmers had to suffer due to MSP, Chautala will resign from his post, the party added.
Besides the JJP’s 10 legislators, seven independent MLAs had also extended support to the BJP, helping it reach a tally of 57 seats in the 90-member Assembly.
However, Independent legislator Sombir Sangwan has already withdrawn his support to the state government owing to the farmers’ agitation.