It reveals the sheer desperation of an extra-parliamentary Opposition that has been trying to create disturbances against the Modi Government, almost incessantly since 2014. So far, their political success has been patchy but they have been unrelenting in the hope that some issue or another is bound to click. The efforts by any Opposition force to move against the Government is a democratic right and cannot be questioned. What, however, does need highlighting is the fact that their efforts are linked to a well-defined political purpose
The ongoing agitation involving farmers from Punjab, Haryana and, to a lesser extent, western Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, has attracted support from the unlikeliest of quarters. Predictably, the Akali Dal in Punjab and the fragmentary remnants of Chaudhury Devi Lal’s empire have endorsed a movement aimed at safeguarding the interests of big farmers. The Congress, naturally, will support any movement that disturbs the tranquillity of the Narendra Modi Government. Less understandable, however, is the support the agitation has secured from the larger Left-liberal ecosystem, from individuals and organisations that, in the past, decried the stranglehold of the kulak lobby on India’s agricultural policies.
The reasons are perhaps obvious. Just as last year’s movement against the Citizenship Amendment Act had brought together individuals and political parties whose connections with fast-tracking citizenship applications from Hindu and Sikh refugees from neighbouring countries were tenuous, the target has always been the Modi Government. Last year, it was the Muslim community that provided the crowds and the rioters in Delhi and the border districts of West Bengal. This time, a small group of people with questionable links have taken control of the farmers movement, with logistical planning outsourced to professional agitators.
The farmers agitation has secured valuable support from intellectuals and media, notably those who have remained unreconciled to the defeat of the Congress and the advent of the Modi Government since 2014. It is interesting to note that whatever the issue — and these have ranged from demonetisation, the Ayodhya verdict and the surgical strikes to the anti-CAA stir and the farmers agitation — the faces who have opposed the Government standpoint have remained more or less the same. This includes economists and others who had earlier vociferously recommended the very same reforms the Government enacted in the previous session of Parliament. They justified the U-turn on the ground that public consultations on the changes should have been more elaborate, never mind the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown.
This is both curious and, at the same time, drearily predictable. It suggests that the real target of Opposition wasn’t the specific measures of the Government but the existence of the Modi Government itself.
It is this visceral Opposition to the Modi Government that explains the inordinate haste with which journalists with a track record of batting against the Prime Minister and the BJP spread the obviously fake news of a farmer being shot dead by the police as he attempted to ram the metal barricades with his fast-moving tractor. The fake news could have triggered a riot. It is therefore unfortunate that the Editor’s Guild thought it necessary to issue a statement that, in effect, seeks to gloss over this wilful misdemeanour.
The blind Opposition has touched ridiculous extremes. On the occasion of the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, a portrait of the stalwart of the nationalist movement was unveiled in Rashtrapati Bhavan. It was a painting by the eminent Bengali artist Paresh Maity. However, the tweet of this occasion was followed by members of the same ecosystem questioning the authenticity of the person depicted in the painting. It was made out that the person portrayed in the painting was that of Prosenjit Chatterjee, a well-known Bengali film star who had played the role of Netaji in a film on Gumnami Baba. The fake news here too may have acquired the status of conventional wisdom had not one of Netaji’s grandnephews tweeted the original photograph on which the painting was based.
The incident may be trivial and is likely to be forgotten before the week ends. However, it reveals the sheer desperation of an extra-parliamentary Opposition that has been trying to create disturbances against the Modi Government, almost incessantly since 2014. So far, their political success has been patchy but they have been unrelenting in the hope that some issue or another is bound to click. The efforts by any Opposition force to move against the Government is a democratic right and cannot be questioned. What, however, does need highlighting is the fact that their efforts are linked to a well-defined political purpose. It is this agenda that needs to be simultaneously highlighted, not least because a section of the media are participants in this game.