While the BJP can hope to derive political mileage out of the Narendra Modi government’s decision to repeal the three controversial farm laws, the announcement brings a mixed bag for the Opposition ahead of Assembly elections in five states early next year.
The decision particularly gives the Congress reason to flex its muscles and claim that it was Opposition pressure that resulted in the surprise rollback. Within hours of Modi’s announcement in an address to the nation, the Congress started highlighting Rahul Gandhi’s statement made a few months ago that the government would be forced to retreat on the farm laws.
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The grand old party will go all out to boost Rahul Gandhi’s image on the issue but the decision does bring some headache for it in poll-bound Punjab. The repeal of the farm laws means former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh is free to enter into an alliance with the BJP without being seen as anti-farmer. In fact, the Captain can now project himself as the savior of farmers given that the withdrawal of the farm laws was his pre-condition for an alliance with the BJP.
Such an understanding between Amarinder Singh and the BJP would be particularly troublesome for the Congress given that intra-party fighting continues with Punjab unit chief Navjot Singh Sidhu now at loggerheads with Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi. Unless it puts its house in order, the Punjab Congress may not be able to keep pace with hectic developments post the repeal of the farm laws.
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The rollback of the farm laws will also have repercussions in Uttar Pradesh that votes next year. In western UP, where the issue had most impact, the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) were banking on the anger of the farming community towards the new laws. With the BJP correcting course in time, the task does get tougher for the two parties.
Elsewhere, the Trinamool Congress, fresh from the West Bengal win, will head to upcoming Winter Session of Parliament with gusto, ready to take on the BJP over violence in Tripura and electoral issues in Goa where it has stepped up its campaign. The repeal of the farm laws is a shot in the arm for the TMC’s strategy.
With the farm laws being the first major rollback by the Narendra Modi government, the Opposition is leaving no stone unturned to claim credit while also wooing farmers in the process.