Farmers vs Hindutva: Analysing Rajasthan Assembly Election
It was well known before the Rajasthan assembly election that the BJP will not return to power in the state that follows a revolving door policy since 1993. There was a visible discontent, even within the Sangh Parivar, against Vasundhara Raje and her tyrannical way of running the government. Vasundhara Raje was also accused of mammoth scams, nepotism and of showing sheer apathy towards the poor people of the state.
Though the Congress under Sachin Pilot’s leadership was expected to have a clean sweep in the Rajasthan assembly election, the party could win only 99 seats of 200, which definitely is an increase from its 2013 tally but two seats less than the majority 101. Despite the anti-incumbency wave in the state, the BJP managed to capitalise on the Hindutva polarisation, which kept the upper-caste Hindu voters, a section of the Gujjars and Jats tied to the Hindutva camp.
The BJP got 13,757,502 votes and the Congress did slightly well with 13,935,201 votes. The difference between the two rivals is just 177,699 votes, in terms of percentage, the Congress has got 39.3 per cent of the total votes while the BJP got 38.8 per cent votes, which keeps the Congress merely up by 0.5 per cent!
This quite minuscule difference in the vote share despite a high tide of anti-incumbency wave, despite a strong anger against the Vasundhara Raje government’s apathy towards the farming community, proves that Hindutva fascism still has a strong hold over the voters in the state and through its socio-religious jingoism, it will keep instigating its own supporters and that of the rival Congress against the values of secularism, democracy, plurality and equality.
Arrogance, feudal dictatorship and tyranny of Vasundhara Raje and her cohorts made the government a thorn in the eyes of even the hardcore RSS supporters. Though the state experienced severe communal polarisation since 1979, there was nothing like what took place between 2013-18. Hindutva terrorism played the safeguard for the government and came to its rescue on different occasions.
Cow terrorism or the Gau Rakshak terrorism reached its peak in Rajasthan under the patronage of Vasundhara Raje and her home minister-cum-close confidante, Gulab Chand Kataria. With the help of notorious criminal-turned-MLAs like Gyandev Singh Ahuja of Alwar, the BJP’s government sponsored a series of cow terror attacks targeting the hapless Meo Muslims of Haryana and Rajasthan who are dairy farmers since ages.
When Pehlu Khan was brutally lynched on the National Highway connecting Gurgaon with Jaipur in broad daylight by a gang of Gau Rakshak terrorists associated with the Hindutva fascist camp, the whole country was shocked; it even drew international criticism but the BJP government rejoiced the death as it gave it an opportunity to amplify their andante of Islamophobic proselytism to polarise the masses on communal lines.
The support of the police, bureaucracy and the political brass ensured that the cow vigilante terrorism turns into a thriving extortion industry in Rajasthan. Apart from lynching Muslim dairy farmers, the Rajasthan government of Vasundhara Raje also helped lonewolf Hindutva terrorists like Shambhu Lal Regar to gain strength and social status in the state. Shambhu Lal Regar brutally hacked a Muslim labourer and then killed him by burning alive on camera, while delivering his communal tirade against the Muslims. He is now hailed as a hero by many of the RSS and Bajrang Dal men and he is most likely to become a candidate of a newly-founded Hindutva terror outfit in Uttar Pradesh, which wants to field him in the 2019 general election.
The Peasants’ Movement- The Antidote to Hindutva Toxin
While the Hindutva fascist campaigning towards communal polarisation has reached its peak saturation point in Rajasthan, the peasants, the tribal people, the working class and the student-youth section of the society have repeatedly hit the state in protest against the BJP-led state and central government’s anti-people policies. This new class alliance became an antidote to the toxic Hindutva fascist polarisation drive.
Farmers of Rajasthan, mostly the poor and marginal peasants, have been vocal against the anti-farmer policies of the Modi regime and the Vasundhara Raje regime. While input cost of farming per hectare land for any crop increased by manifold, the return on investment fell drastically.
Almost 61 per cent of Rajasthan’s total area is desert, out of which about two-thirds area face heavy wind erosion. Nearly 30 per cent of Rajasthan’s territory is wasteland. The soil has poor water holding capacity and very low nutrients, resulting in lower productivity per hectare land. The majority of the peasants look up to the rains for cultivation and rainfall is quite erratic in the monsoon months. Drought is a regular affair in Rajasthan, which hits the state once in three years.
As 53 per cent of Rajasthan’s households is attached to agriculture, it’s the major source of income in the state. With each bad crop or fall in price at the open markets, where they compelled to sell their crops due to non-availability of government procurement at minimum support price (MSP), the peasants enter into a bad debt trap. This vicious cycle continues and the noose around their neck tightens.
In the Hadauti region of Rajasthan, five peasants committed suicide this year due to falling prices of garlic. While the production cost of one kg garlic is nearly Rs 20, the peasants were getting around Rs 2 to Rs 3 per kg from the unscrupulous intermediary buyers in the open market. The government’s reluctance to implement an MSP for garlic aggravated the problem and turned it into an acute crisis, affecting thousands of households in the state.
The All India Kisan Sabha, the peasants’ outfit of the CPI(M), utilised the opportunity of the anger simmering in the rural areas of Rajasthan, to build up a massive peasants’ struggle throughout rural Rajasthan. The peasants started agitating since the monsoon of 2017 on a large scale in the Sikar and other places.
Demanding the immediate implementation of the Swaminathan Commission Report, total farm loan waiver, etc., the peasants took to the streets from September 2017. They blocked National Highway-52, which connects Agra to Bikaner and completely paralysed vehicular traffic in at least 6 districts- Sikar, Jhujhunu, Churu, Bikaner, Jaipur and Sriganganagar. The Rajasthan government was frightened and promised to look after the demands of the peasants and desisted them from intensifying the struggle.
When the peasants found the government non-committal towards fulfilling the promises, they started a massive siege of the state assembly in February 2018. Named ‘Mahapadao’, the siege of the state legislative assembly by the peasants and tribal people won popular support, more than what the BJP could ever garner through its high decibel polarisation campaigning. Traders, lower-middle class, the working class, students and youth extended their support towards the Mahapadao and assisted the movement to grow stronger.
The peasants relentlessly carried out their siege, the Mahapadao, for 13 days non-stop, which eventually forced Vasundhara Raje to accept some of their key demands and the government sought time to fulfil them. Through a series of discussions, the Vasundhara Raje government agreed to waive farmer debts up to Rs 50,000 and refer the Swaminathan Commission report to the centre.
When the Vasundhara Raje government announced its decision of farm loan waiver, it was found to be a scanty deal for the gigantic problem. At a time when Rajasthan’s total farm loan amount hovered around Rs 490 billion, then the Vasundhara Raje government announced a debt relief of an estimated Rs 200 billion, however, at the time of disbursal only Rs 77 billion was disbursed to 2.7 million farmers.
The farm loans up to Rs 50,000 were dealt with in an abrupt manner and no proper care was taken to understand the complicated requirements of the peasantry, which led to the continuation of the menace of debt burdened on the peasants of Rajasthan.
Though the Congress remained aloof from the AIKS-led peasants’ agitation in Rajasthan, it was only after eyeing the forthcoming state assembly election that the Congress started farmers’ movement from 3 October 2018. At different places, the Congress workers started agitating against the Vasundhara Raje government and a lot of BJP supporters from the farming communities, especially the big farmers and the middle ones, who are also affected by the BJP’s anti-agriculture policies, joined the Congress bandwagon to vent out their anger, as the BJP would only talk about cow protection, cow care and cow growth in the state.
When the farmers’ struggle, which played a pivotal role in bringing down the Hindutva fascist Vasundhara Raje government in Rajasthan, grew stronger with the support of the common toiled people of the state, the unemployed youth, students and small traders, a majority of whom are Hindus, it reflected in the voting pattern in December 2018.
The Menace of Communalism and the Peasants’ Movement
Rather than raising democratic demands, rather than boldly vouching for secularism and smashing the Hindutva mirage, the Congress succumbed to the Hindutva fascist temptation and rolled out its own brand of Hindutva propaganda throughout the election campaigns. Its utter disregard for the oppressed Muslim community became evident when the party didn’t even criticise the BJP for abetting the Gau Raksha terrorism, rather went around to temples and exploited the ‘cow’ sentiment of the common people. The Congress’ manifesto didn’t differ from the BJP’s except for the criticism of the Modi and Vasundhara Raje regime.
Despite its utter upper-caste Hindu appeasing endeavours, the Congress mostly lost those seats in the urban Rajasthan where it carried out extensive temple tours. Rather, in rural Rajasthan, where the anger of the farming communities is still brewing against the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government, the Congress won 87 seats and the BJP lost 79 seats.
The rise of the parliamentary left-led peasants’ movement in Rajasthan, the crimsoning of the Sikar belt, and the assertion of the peasants’ power in the state politics are new developments in rural Rajasthan that the BJP and the RSS were not ready for. Though the RSS will try to bring the Hindutva wave back through intensified cow protection campaigning and Hindu-Muslim binary over emotive tugs, it won’t be possible for it to wean away the majority of the peasantry from their struggle for a better, secure and stable future through communal virulence.
Rajasthan remained a Hindutva fascist camp for a long time. It’s a state where history is blatantly revised to fit the Hindutva narrative of Rajput supremacy against Mughals, its education system is rigged by regressive Hindutva doctrine, the state hosts a large army of Gau Rakshak terrorists who are out on the streets to lynch Muslims with the support of the policemen, who never shy to wear their religious prejudice on their uniform.
In this state, when the BJP and its communal bandwagon is thumbed down and booed in the elections and it loses power, then it may not mean the immediate end of the Hindutva fascist factory because the Hindutva fascism will keep growing unhindered under a Congress rule as well; however, the electoral loss shows that there is a discontent against the Hindutva fascist rule, its anti-people policies and anti-agriculture stance.
The immediate effect of the Rajasthan assembly election may not be felt on the Hindutva fascist forces ruling the streets from Jaipur to Gurgaon’s border. There will be absolutely no impact on the Gau Rakshak terrorists as most of them got the patronage of Congress’ upper-caste Hindu leaders as well. But there will be an aroused peasantry in the state. The antidote, the antithesis that will keep fighting against the aggression of the corporate-feudal ruled state.
The united block of poor, landless and middle peasants are closely watching how the Congress government treats them and they won’t hesitate to struggle against it and its monstrous policies should the Congress starts a marathon race following the trail of its predecessor in Rajasthan anytime soon. The rise of the farming communities and their assertion of power will gradually change the entire course of Rajasthan’s politics for the better.
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