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Why Bharat Bandh was a resounding success

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Every state saw people in general pay heed to the ‘Bharat Bandh’ call regardless of whether the state was BJP-ruled or opposition-ruled

The question being asked was ‘how much of Bharat would be in Bharat Bandh?’ Both the pro-bandh and the anti-bandh lobbies wanted the answer to be in their favour. So much so, the question was asked two days in advance of Bharat Bandh held today. The protagonists provided the answer themselves. The ‘pro-bandhers’ asserted the bandh was “all-India and all-encompassing”, with the entire India coming together to observe ‘Bharat Bandh’.

Enthused by the “success” of the ‘Chalo Dilli’ agitation, farmers opposing the anti-farmers laws sought all-India support and claimed to have got it, too. The ‘anti-bandhers’ did not lag. They polished up their act and strode forth the hypothesis that barring Punjab, and a “little of Haryana” plus maybe other Congress-ruled states, the ‘Bharat Bandh’ did not see enough of ‘Bharat’ responding to the ‘Bharat Bandh’ call.

So, how did ‘Bharat Bandh’ pan out in the various states that make up India? Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal did not give a call to join the ‘Bharat Bandh’, but his Aam Aadmi Party could not afford to stay away. The Aam Aadmi Party’s “outside Dilli’ ambitions are linked to the politics of Punjab and Haryana.

Given the situation and thought in Punjab, there was no way AAP could have distanced itself from the ‘Bharat Bandh.’ AAP stood firm with the farmers even as APMC mandis in Delhi remained open to trade and “business as usual”.

The Delhi Police, which comes under the Union Home Ministry, was out in full force – guarding markets, protecting monuments, keeping public spaces open, maintaining law & order and striking fear in the hearts and minds of the anti-social and the vagrant. AAP alleged that Arvind Kejriwal was kept under “house arrest”, which the Delhi Police denied.

The fact of the matter was that it was imperative for both pro-bandh and the anti-bandh lobbies to make an example of the impact ‘Bharat Bandh’ had on Delhi. At the end of the day, both were able to leave an impression. Looked at in another way, ‘Bharat Bandh’ found support from all opposition parties, including from Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP.

There was talk that Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal was against the ‘Bharat Bandh’ but, as it turned out, all of Odisha stood “closed” on December 8. Among states which observed ‘Bharat Bandh’, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress-ruled West Bengal stood out. Left Front-ruled Kerala and Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan also observed ‘Bharat Bandh.’

So did “epicenter” Punjab. Strictly speaking, taken by which party ruled which state, ‘Bharat Bandh’ could not have spanned all of “Bharat”, but lacking a state government’s call to strike did not mean any state was “not locked down.” Every state saw people in general pay heed to the ‘Bharat Bandh’ call regardless of whether the state was BJP-ruled or opposition-ruled. Both Uttar Pradesh as well as Bihar were impacted as much as Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Even the Maha Vikas Aghadi-administered Maharashtra saw ‘Bharat Bandh’ leave its mark.

Observe that these are days of flux at home and abroad. The “dethroning” of Donald Trump and his “America First” political and economic agenda has left the world topsy-turvy. A Biden-administered US has already stated that the United States will “help China rise”, which means Prime Minister Narendra Modi would have to realign his political philosophy. Set aside his Hindutva ego and retreat from set stances. Like that on the ‘three agriculture laws.’

India may even have to “rejoin RCEP” if it aspires to become a $5 trillion economy by 2022. Fact is, in a post-Trump-truth world, India cannot be left behind. The farmer agitation against Modi’s agriculture laws has found resonance across the world with even the United Nations throwing its weight behind the farmers. The impression that common Indians are being forced to live under the yoke of an oppressive regime is telling and Modi’s international stock is falling by the day.

The short interlude of the “right” coming to power in nations across the developed and developing world is coming to an end and once again the world looks to be the left-liberal’s oyster. Progressives are taking back control.

It’s at such a time that the farmers of India are opposing the hold of crony capitalism, fighting ‘my way or the highway’.

The call for a nationwide shutdown disrupted transportation services. Banks remained open and care was taken not to disturb life. The Modi Government’s query “why the shutdown when talks were ongoing?” was answered with “Repeal all three laws, period.” A sixth round of talks will be held on December 9 but the deadlock may not be resolved. The farmers are adamant that the three laws have to be repealed and the Central government is equally intransigent.

It goes to the farmers’ credit that Bharat Bandh passed off peacefully. States, depending on whether ruled by BJP or non-BJP governments, took steps to maintain law and order. Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh governments opposed the ‘bandh.’ Punjab, the epicenter of the protests, was largely peaceful. Delhi’s APMC mandis saw some trading despite a call for closure. Ditto in Maharashtra. Pune’s APMC mandis remained open. But there were incidents of ‘Rail Roko’ in several parts of the state.

In Telangana, all Osmania University examinations stood cancelled. AIRF and NFIR, the two largest Railways’ unions, supported the bandh and held rallies and demonstrations. The All India Bank Officers’ Confederation (AIBOC) stood firm with the farmers but did not join the strike.

Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) buses did not ply till 1 pm, but the YSR Congress Party of Jagan Mohan Reddy supported the protesting farmers “whole-heartedly.” Punjab saw “Chakka Jam” while Odisha’s ruling BJD chose to resolve farmers’ issues through dialogue. The Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Trinamool Congress, DMK, TRS, RJD, Aam Aadmi Party, Samajwadi Party and Left parties CPI and CPM backed the protesting farmers and the ‘Bharat Bandh.’ Opposition unity stood out.

This edition of the ‘Bharat Bandh’ did not have the sound and fury associated with ‘bandhs’ but that did not mean that it failed to leave an impact. On the contrary, it was a success and a resounding one at that. Like somebody tweeted, “Kisan Ki Taaqat’ It was felt all over India, in every corner of Bharat! It was also yet another example of opposition unity coming together to score success. Sushil Kutty/IPA

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