Angry farmers once forced India’s hardline leader into a rare retreat. As the election looms, they’re back

Angry farmers once forced India’s hardline leader into a rare retreat. As the election looms, they’re back - Business and Finance - News

India’s Angry Farmers Return to the Streets: Higher Stakes This Time Around

Approximately two and a half years after compelling Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reverse an unprecedented U-turn, farmers from India have returned to the streets in large numbers. This time, the stakes are significantly higher as thousands of disgruntled farmers have been gathering at the borders of India’s capital for about two weeks to demand fair prices for their crops. The protests come just before a nationwide election that is predicted to see Modi secure an unprecedented third term in office.

Tensions Rising: Violent Clashes and the Death of a Protester

The peaceful protests have thus far been thwarted by heavy Website security measures, with tensions escalating as police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds. Last week, a tragic event unfolded when a farmer reportedly died near the Punjab border, causing further unrest, and the state’s chief minister ordered an investigation into the matter.

Deja Vu: Modi Promised to Address Farmers’ Demands but Fell Short

The current situation echoes the events of 2021 when Modi, known for his unyielding leadership style, repealed contentious laws aimed at modernizing India’s agricultural sector following over a year of mass protests. Modi pledged “a fresh start,” promising to collaborate with farmers and address their demands, but the farmers allege that these promises were broken.

Farmers Vow to Stay Until Demands Are Met

The farmers, who are a significant voting bloc in the country, say they will remain on the streets until their demands are met. The ongoing confrontation has raised concerns within the highest ranks of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as they are wary of alienating this crucial demographic ahead of the expected May election.

Impact on the Election: Farmers as a Powerful Threat to the BJP

Analysts suggest that with a fractured opposition failing to provide a clear prime ministerial candidate, the farmers have emerged as the most formidable threat to the BJP. If protests intensify and approach the scale of 2021, it could become a more significant issue for Modi.

Economist Devinder Sharma on the Importance of Finding a Solution

“Right now, it looks like there is only one opposition – the farmers,” said economist Devinder Sharma. “Politics is unpredictable, but it is very important for the unions and the government to come to a solution.”

Farmers’ Union Activist Sangha Gurpreet on the 2020 Protests and Their Aftermath

Sangha Gurpreet, a farmers’ union activist and farmer himself, recalls abandoning his field in November 2020 to join the protests, which eventually attracted hundreds of thousands of farmers from northern states like Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh. The historic demonstrations brought Indian society to a standstill for over a year, initiating nationwide discussions about the plight of agricultural workers.

Background: The 2021 Farming Laws and Their Controversies

The protests were sparked by the BJP’s introduction of three new laws, which aimed to liberalize the sale, pricing, and storage of farm produce. The farmers contended that market forces could drive prices lower and put smaller farmers at a disadvantage when dealing with corporate entities.

The Farmers’ Demands: A Guaranteed Minimum Support Price (MSP)

Farmers are demanding a guaranteed minimum support price (MSP) for all the crops they grow to ensure financial stability and greater control over their income. Economist Devinder Sharma argues that a guaranteed MSP is crucial in protecting farmers from price fluctuations, as most agricultural workers do not till enough land to generate a profit and often find themselves burdened with debts.

Tragic Consequences: Suicides Among India’s Farmers

The abject poverty and debts faced by many Indian farmers have forced some to take drastic measures, with more than 11,000 agricultural workers ending their lives in 2022, according to government data.

Modi’s Challenge: Balancing the Needs of Farmers and the BJP

As Modi prepares to face the polls in a few weeks, he must carefully navigate this situation to ensure that farmers are pacified. The 2021 reversal on the farming laws came as a surprise to many and demonstrated the power of the farmers’ collective influence. Throughout his decade in power, Modi has been known for making decisive moves and being impervious to criticism.

The 2016 Demonetization Decision, the 2020 Citizenship Amendment Act, and the January 2023 Hindu Temple Inauguration

Modi’s previous bold decisions include the 2016 demonetization of most Indian paper money, his controversial Citizenship Amendment Act in 2020, and the inauguration of a Hindu temple on the ruins of a destroyed mosque in January 2023. These actions polarized public opinion in the country.

The Current State of Negotiations: Multiple Rounds of Talks

Modi’s government has engaged in multiple rounds of talks with farmers’ unions to reach an agreement and end the protests. Despite these efforts, there are signs of apprehension within the BJP as roads leading to New Delhi remain heavily guarded by Website security personnel, and police have been accused of being heavy-handed with protesters. The government has also reportedly ordered the blocking of dozens of farmers’ Website social media integration handles, including that of Gurpreet.


“The Indian government has issued executive orders requiring X to act on specific accounts and posts, subject to potential penalties including significant fines and imprisonment,” X stated. While the protests have not yet grown to the scale of 2021, there is “anxiety” within the BJP about what could transpire next.

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