Punjab BJP leaders who met PM say farmers’ protest leaderless, unions rigid

The head of BJP’s 8-member panel formed for talks with farmers, Surjeet Kumar Jyani, said that ongoing farmers’ protest was a “leaderless agitation”.

A day after meeting the Prime Minister in Delhi, the head of BJP’s 8-member panel formed for talks with farmers, Surjeet Kumar Jyani, said that ongoing farmers’ protest was a “leaderless agitation”.

“Agitations have happened in the past too. But every agitation had one leader – Chaudhary Devi Lal, Mahendra Singh Tikait, Anna Hazare and many others. However, in this agitation, we are not able to find one single leader who can talk on behalf of others and the rest have trust in him. It is a leaderless agitation,” Jyani told The Indian Express.

He added, “Whenever we try to talk to one union leader, he says to talk to the other person. They don’t take decisions on each other’s behalf. So for that reason, one leader needs to be chosen.”

Asked if union leaders and PM Modi should meet, he said: “They can always meet. They can seek appointment online and can get time for their meeting. I don’t think the PM will have any issue in meeting all 41 of them. However, they have never sought an appointment from him till now. Last year, there was an issue of sugarcane farmers in my Fazilka area and I had arranged a meeting of 80 farmers with the PM. Hence, it is a wrong notion that the PM will not meet them.”

Talking about the demand to repeal farm laws, he said, “There are thousands of laws. If these laws are repealed then tomorrow someone else can come to get another law repealed. One can get amendments done, but I feel repeal of laws cannot be done…I think farmers should think of a way in which they can get their demands met and the government can also have its say.”

Another BJP panel member, Harjeet Singh Grewal, had met the PM along with Jyani in a meeting that lasted about one hour and fifteen minutes.

Speaking about what transpired at the meeting with the Prime Minister, Jyani said, “PM asked us who is their leader with whom the government can talk. It is a leaderless agitation. We request farmer union leaders to choose 2-3 members out of them if not one single leader who can talk to the government on farm laws and is authorised to take decisions as well. Meeting with 41 farmer union leaders is not yielding results. It seems to be difficult to find a result with 41 of them coming for talks. They need to trust each other and people also need to trust the one leader chosen out of them.”

He added, “Harjeet Grewal and I also spoke about framing an agriculture policy for farmers and how the policy can do mapping of the country’s requirements like how much wheat is need for the given population, requirement of pulses, oil seeds, vegetables, fruits etc and which state is best for growing a particular crop…if crops are grown in this pattern there will be no glut of grains/vegetables etc and farmer will also get proper rates. It was also discussed that there should be a farmers’ commission exclusively to take up issues of farmers with constitutional rights.”

Grewal said: “These are our suggestions based on our experience as farmers as we are farmers first and politicians later. We stay among farmers, interact with them and hence these suggestions were put. Union leaders should not act too tough. Government is thinking for the welfare of farmers only.”

The duo maintained that state leadership was not ignored at all and they were in Delhi on behalf of the state BJP president.

Jyani too said that union leaders seemed rigid in the negotiation process.

“I must say that the government is every time moving several steps ahead, but farmer union leaders are not moving even a bit. During December 8 meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah, it was told to them that they can list any changes in the farm laws, and the government had even sent them a proposal on those demands. However, they rejected that proposal saying that it can be either ‘Yes or No’. Later, they themselves said that they are ready to talk beyond ‘Yes or No’. But in the next meeting on December 30, they again got stuck on repeal of laws…Now, I feel that all the apprehensions have been addressed, electricity bill amendments and environment ordinance have been withdrawn. So, the demands with which they came to Delhi have been fulfilled. So now, they (union leaders) must think of the welfare of farmers. Par lagta hai ki ab yeh union leaders ki mooch ka swaaal ho gaya hai.. kisano ka hit bhi sochna chahiye (but now, I think it has become a matter of pride for the union leaders .. they must think of welfare of farmers as well),” he said.

The BJP leader once again defended the farm laws, reiterating his suggestion that legal teams picked by the unions should look into the demands.

Jyani said, “I had stated it earlier as well that farm laws are for the welfare of farmers and legal teams of union leaders can discuss with our legal teams and if even one convincing flaw is pointed out, I will resign from the party and will sit on dharna along with them. Rather I will sit on dharna outside the PM’s house.”

Talking about SC’s intervention, Jyani said, “Already the matter is in court and all unions are party to it.”

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