Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation in which he announced that the three contentious farm laws will be repealed is a huge victory for the farmer agitation. As elections in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh neared, the shadow cast by the farm protests was becoming too hard for the BJP to ignore. With the Supreme Court staying its implementation, the laws were anyway as good as dead.
Centre’s cardinal error was the failure to hardsell the need for greater private participation in the farm trade upfront, before enacting the laws. The ordinance route and the rushed passage to Parliament was poor optics. It also underestimated the clout of farmers benefiting from the current MSP and procurement regime. Nevertheless, the lost opportunity shouldn’t mean the end of attempts to reinvigorate agriculture.
The greater political threat for BJP stemmed from western UP where the BKU leader Rakesh Tikait had taken leadership of the agitation and was threatening to fan it wider. The Lakhimpur Kheri violence allegedly involving Union minister Ajay Mishra Teni’s son Ashish Mishra had intensified the divide. With the farm agitation out of the way, the deck has been cleared for a BJP alliance with Amarinder Singh in Punjab and for its leaders in Western UP and Haryana to regain lost ground after going on the defensive for nearly a year.