Rakesh Tikait meets Mamata Banerjee: What explains the move and what it means

Mamata's support for the agitation which has drawn on the agrarian community in rural north India, may be perceived by farmer leaders as a potential force multiplier

FP Staff June 09, 2021 17:02:02 IST
Rakesh Tikait meets Mamata Banerjee: What explains the move and what it means

Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait meets West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. ANI

Farmer leaders led by Rakesh Tikait and Yudhvir Singh of the Bharatiya Kisan Union met West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday to seek her support for the ongoing farmers' stir against the new agriculture laws and for a Minimum Support Price for farm produce.

Yudhvir Singh, general secretary of the BKU, told PTI, "We want to congratulate Mamata Banerjee for her electoral victory and to elicit her support for the move to give farmers a fair MSP for their crops." The lack of a specified MSP and glut in produce often leads to farmers to suffer from extremely low prices which results in huge losses, often leading to farmer suicides in many parts of the country, he added.

Singh said he also wants to impress upon Banerjee the need to come up with MSP for fruits, vegetables and milk products in West Bengal as "this will serve as a model" elsewhere.

Why did Tikait make this move?

For Tikait and other farmer leaders who have been agitating on Delhi's borders since November last year against three laws passed by Parliament  (which they feel will commercialise agriculture without adequate protection to small farmers from exploitation by large retail chains and industry), the calculus is simple: their flagging movement needs the sheen of political legitimacy that Mamata can bestow.

Her support for the agitation which has drawn on the agrarian community in rural north India, may be perceived by farmer leaders as a potential force multiplier.

As the old saying goes: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

What this means for Mamata

This meeting affords Mamata — already at loggerheads with the Union government over former chief secretary and now advisor to the chief minister Alapan Bandyopadhyay — yet another opportunity to take on the Centre.

The importance of Tikait

Tikait is the de facto leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, although his official designation is that of the national spokesperson. His brother Naresh Tikait is the official president of the organisation. Tikait unsuccessfully contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls on a Rashtriya Lok Dal ticket from Amroha, Uttar Pradesh, but failed to save his deposit. Tikait was born in the Sisauli village of Muzaffarnagar on 4 June, 1969. He completed his MA degree from the Meerut University, and later also studied law.

His father, Mahendra Tikait, was one of the founders of the BKU, and is credited for making the organisation a prominent voice of farmers in north India. Rakesh Tikait is one of the farmer leaders named by the Delhi Police in its FIR filed after the violence in Delhi on 26 January.

With inputs from PTI

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