The 51-year-old Delhi Police constable-turned-farmer leader has virtually emerged as the face of the farmer agitation specially at a time when the protests had seem to loose its objective after the republic day riots.
The younger Tikait has had a below average career so far and has never won any election. He contested the 2007 UP Assembly elections from the Khatauli seat with Congress support – only to finish a distant sixth. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, he fought on a Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) ticket from Amroha and lost his deposit after polling a mere 9,539 votes.
Even in the current stir against the Narendra Modi government’s agricultural reform laws, the farmers from Tikait’s Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) were, till quite recently, numerically less at the Delhi-UP Ghazipur border protest site compared to those mobilised by his rival V.M. Singh of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan. But all that has changed after Tikait’s Thursday evening speech at Ghazipur, refusing to follow the local administration’s orders to vacate the site and court arrest.
As videos of his breaking down and threats of hanging himself went viral and with the major forces of VM Singh pulling out of the agitation, Rakesh has now become western UP’s undisputed kisan neta. His stature has risen with support also coming in from Jat leaders of neighbouring states including Indian National Lok Dal’s Abhay Singh Chautala and Rashtriya Loktantrik Party’s Beniwal.
The central government and the UP government have not been very favourable for the kisan.
Photo of rakesh tikait during the 8th round of talks with the government over the new farm laws, at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi.
The Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in UP, since it came to power in March 2017, has not done much for the Kisan. The state advised price of cane was increased by just Rs 10 per quintal to Rs 315-325. The SAP for the 2020-21 season has not even been announced despite mills undertaking crushing operations since end-October. To add fuel to fury, the mills owe farmers over Rs 11,500 crore against cane purchases made in the current as well as the previous season.
To say that farmer anger is limited to Punjab and Haryana is an understatement. The real distressing factor in UP more than the reform laws are these financial issues faced by the farmers with regards to sugarcane. Electricity charges (for both irrigation pumps and domestic connections) were doubled, cost of diesel increased by Rs 10/litre in the last one year alone and largely no promises were fulfilled despite Adityanath government’s election rhetoric.
Last night, the UP government falsely assumed that farmers had lost support and sympathy amongst the public. It decided to uproot the agitating farmers camping at the Ghazipur border. By late evening, it appeared that the police would not have much difficulty in having this camp vacated but with an emotional outburst, farmers’ leader Rakesh Tikait turned the tables on the administration. His tears proved more powerful than the might of the UP government. His address resonated across the entire Jat land of western UP, which till then had been lukewarm in extending support to him.
Will Rakesh Tikait claim the legacy of his father and also show political astuteness to emerge as the de facto kisan leader of Northern India… only time will tell.