Bhubaneswar: All forms of Media across the country boomed with headlines announcing that Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally bowed down before the farm agitators and announced the Centre’s decision to repeal the three contentious farm laws. He promised to complete the withdrawal process by the month end.
This is not all, the PM offered an open apology to farmers which indicated how he is willing to bend and compromise even as his critics widely accused him of being intransigence. He seemed least bothered when Akali Dal deserted the NDA over the farm laws. The reason behind the rollback may be political compulsion keeping in view the elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
However, Narendra Modi has given a clear message to the entire ruling classes that the people are the masters in democracy and there is no place for arrogance or ego when it comes to respect the public sentiments.
Mr.Modi regretted that he could not make a section of farmers understand the benefits of the new farm laws. He and his government has spent hundreds of crores of rupees on campaigning to drive home to masses what the government actually wants by such reforms in agriculture sector. His intentions were not bad or harmful for the farmers, but his efforts failed to convince farmers leading the repeal of the three laws.
The opposition parties including Congress and Left parties could counter the BJP’s publicity and the saffron leaders failed to win the hearts of masses forcing the Prime Minister to recapitulate. It is not that Mr.Modi was happy to make such an announcement, but he has to take the path of compromise in order to win the hearts of the people, particularly, the small and marginal farmers who constitute about 80 per cent of the agrarian community.
The oppositions’ slogan of corporate farmers vs small farmers finally convinced the people and created mistrust among the people. The farmers failed to understand the benefits of the farm laws, and were carried away by opposition propaganda.
This is not the first time that Mr.Modi agreed to withdraw legislation. Earlier, his government had to back-tracked the proposed land reform laws. Though the opposition to the land reform acts was confined to the four walls of the Parliament, in case of farm laws, it was fought on streets where over 700 people have lost their lives during the year-long agitation.
Mr.Modi’s action has given a clear message to all the parties in the government in different states including Odisha governed by BJD, West Bengal ruled by TMC, Andhra Pradesh by YSR Congress and others. The Prime Minister’s action shows that the people are the masters and the mighty people in power may not always succeed in having their ways.
The leaders who are heading the governments must now understand that if they want to remain in power and run the government, they have to respect the public opinion and there is no place of arrogance or individuality in the government as well as in administration. In politics, Modi, Patnaik, Benerjee or Kejriwal do not count, but the masses which elected them. The people of India have seen how the Left bastion was demolished in Bengal politics and many towering leaders like Indira Gandhi or Atal Behari Vajpayee or Biju Patnaik had to eat humble pie.
Naveen Patnaik, the five time Chief Minister of Odisha, after each election gives “Guru Mantras” to his lawmakers that the people are masters and they are just “sevaks” of the constituents. Naveen may not have not crossed the “Laxman Rekha” ever, but do all his legislators behave like “sevaks”?
The question is doing rounds after Modi succumbed to the public opinion. As the head of the state and the government, one cannot ignore public opinion with the argument that the allegations were framed by opposition and the government is not bound to abide by it. The truth remains that opposition allegations often become public perception as it has happened in the case of farm laws in India and in a much hyped gang rape incident in 1999 in Odisha. Former Chief Minister J B Patnaik was miles away from the 1999 gang rape incident, but he had to pay dearly for failing to understand public pulses.
Now, Mr.Modi, as an intelligent political personality starting his political journey from the grass root level, could easily understand the ground realities and mended his way giving a clear signal to all the leaders across the country that a ruler in democracy must respect public opinion even if it is wrong. One might be a very popular leader or an able administrator, but one has to lend an ear to the ground. The silent majority of people do not hesitate to punish a leader if issues are forced on them, pointed out a social activist.
It is high time that governments took a cue from Narendra Modi and mended their ways before the house of power crumbled. Some states and their leaders have taken it for granted that the people will vote for them at any cost for their money and reach. But, that is not always true. Had that been the case, BJP would not have lost the recent by-elections in some states.
Mr.Modi has everything in hand like money, men and media. Still he made the course correction, when he could read the mind of people. While going for major reforms, the government has to take all including the opposition into confidence before moving any Bill. That was not done in case of farm laws, opposition and farmers bodies allege. In Odisha also, the failure of the Rs 52,000 crore Posco project is enough to speak how stakeholders are important. The Naveen Patnaik Government did not want to harm people by setting up the Posco plant in Paradip. But, the project could not come up. This is because of a lack of consensus.
And the time is very high for all the parties to take a lesson from Modi and accept the realities after shunning arrogance or ego whatever they call it, because in democracy people are the bosses!