Dharmendra Jore: Let there be peace and peasants
Instead of settling scores, arch-rivals BJP and CPM should find the best possible solutions to farmers' demands, keep Mumbai free from any fear in view of a long march
Oblivious of the Left versus Right skirmish, which Mumbai saw many decades ago when Bal Thackeray's Shiv Sena declared a war on the communists who were ruling the labour movement, the new generation Mumbaikars will have some unexpected show on display today, when the CPM-led farmers' long march tries to lay siege to Mantrayala and Vidhan Bhavan.
The alarming difference is that then arch-rival of the Left, Sena, is now supporting the agitation, promoted by the people who the party founder had called anti-nationals. Post-Bal Thackeray, the Sena-Left togetherness finds its genesis in an unprecedented surge of their common enemy, the BJP. The Sena in Maharashtra is as troubled as the Left elsewhere in the country, thanks to BJP's winning ways.
Farmers are not happy with BJP's ongoing loan waiver and other measures that have been taken to check agrarian crisis. The same lot had agitated before the farm loan waiver was announced.
The CPM leaders, who were part of negotiations with the government then, but dismissed later, have given the final call, branding the protest "a fight to the finish". The BJP takes this as a challenge in view of the recent drubbing it gave the Leftists in north-eastern states.
It was Sena that came out in support, much before the MNS, Congress and NCP extended a helping hand to the CPM long march, which stands apart from the agitations held in the past by the parties. Incidentally, NCP's much-touted 'Halla Bol' statewide agitation ended in Nashik without much ado two days after the CPM-led 25,000 farmers left for Mumbai under the banner 'All India Kisan Sabha'.
The Congress held its own agitation some months ago and joined hands with the NCP during the winter session of the state legislature. Sena president Uddhav Thackeray has addressed farmers' rallies several times.
What does give this agitation traction that no other anti-BJP agitation has received so far? With a negligible pan-Maharashtra vote share, the CPM has pulled a fast one. It attracted media attention and got non-BJP parties' support by making a long march look like a deprived village moving along a national highway.
The protest is sans 'star' facilities that are seen at events held by the rich parties. Here, protestors walk on foot and get injured. They don't demand vehicles to ease their travel. They bring their food for cooking along the way and accept whatever sympathisers offer, if they don't have any food left on them. They don't demand cosy lodging. They sleep under the skies on mats. Afresh, they walk the very next morning.
This should be a culture shock for the seasoned lot of political protesters, who get a daily allowance, food and booze, and travel in swanky buses with the sole purpose of tourism on their mind, whenever they set out for a protest or an election rally.
Like BJP, the CPM also finds its strength in a well-trained party cadre. Landless and marginal farmers from Left-influenced parts of Thane, Palghar and Nashik's tribal region have been powering this particular long march.
A fight to the finish
If not allowed by the police and rejected by the government, the poor peasants may force their way beyond a restricted zone. They may use guerrilla tactics to walk to Nariman Point, where they want to stay put for an indefinite period. Laying siege by dodging a 5,000-strong security force may turn Central and South Mumbai into battle zones.
If it happens so, then, the CPM and all others in Opposition would have their political purpose served. They may settle scores with the BJP government, blaming it for crushing poor farmers' agitation. The BJP may have its own way to get even with its arch-rivals.
Do the CPM, the Sena, the entire Opposition and the BJP want innocent farmers bleeding on the streets and hapless Mumbaikars troubled? Considering the massive police strength deployed and intelligence machinery working overtime, the BJP government isn't going easy over the CPM march that has a deep-rooted hyper anti-BJP sentiment inculcated in the agitating farmers.
Will it work in everybody's favour? Neither party should stretch things to the extent where there will be no peace for the public or solution for the distressed farmers. We need both peace and peasants. BJP seems ready to discuss demands; let's see how CPM reacts.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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