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We need stronger voices against climate of hate being propagated, says Jayant Singh – Mrit News

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The RLD chief says that during the BJP government, terms of trade always remain against farmers and their produce

The RLD chief says that during the BJP government, terms of trade always remain against farmers and their produce

In his first interview after being elected to the Rajya Sabha as a joint candidate of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and the Samajwadi Party, Chaudhary Jayant Singh says he will bring a private member Bill on Equal Opportunity Commission and stand tall against the climate of hate.

Responding to the government’s flip-flop on wheat and sugar exports, Mr. Singh says that during the BJP government terms of trade always remain against farmers and their produce. “Have we ever heard the BJP government putting ban on the export of cement, steel and other things that are used by common people. Things that are made by big industries never face such sort of trade policy.”

Cranes and bulldozers, the RLD chief says, are “symbols of construction” but the way they are being used by the present government, it is very evident that “the government is trying to pit one community against the other.” He says the communal clashes in Rajasthan and Kanpur indicate that “the politics of fear is very much alive and kicking and we have to remain alert if we have to survive this phase.” Edited excerpts:

It is a matter of greater honour and privilege. I will remain consistent to issues that I have been raising. I firmly believe that there is an agrarian crisis that needs to be addressed. Also, we need stronger voices against the climate of hate that is being propagated. We need someone who should stand for the constitutional values and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution and protect them. You can call that liberal, which I am. I believe the entire country is essentially liberal.

Will you raise the demand for an Equal Opportunity Commission and caste census?

The government’s decisions should be based on analysis and data. On one hand the BJP wants to enumerate outsiders but on the other it is denying a caste census. A lot of demands for quota go to higher judiciary and there the government is told that the decision making has no basis. One of my first tasks in Parliament will be to raise the demand for an equal opportunity or social justice commission. The core argument is that in society there cannot be discrimination. Can the private sector be above that? I am working on a private member Bill to seek a constitutional, forward-looking body. The SC/ST, OBC commissions are working in a pigeon holed manner and have been reduced to redressal platforms. The proposed body could mandate that every company beyond a certain turnover would be required to provide data so that the consumer would also know that the product he is buying is hiring people from rural background or not. Yes, corporate chambers do some surveys but if we create an institutional framework that sifts the data, does research and then proposes some affirmative actions, it would be better. State governments are saying domicile should be the basis of quota. I don’t agree with it but it shows there is resentment in the local communities of not being represented in the private sector.

There is a sentiment that you would have achieved more in the Assembly?

I agree, there is this sentiment on the ground. I feel I am not a newbie in Indian politics. I cannot remain rooted to my strengths. Given the direction in which the country is headed, we need stronger voices coming together. So I felt there is more space for us today. So I chose a larger canvas. Having said that I will like to see the development of my State. I am very actively working with my legislators to fulfill the promises made in the manifesto, even though we are in the Opposition.

Some observers feel that the decision was guided by the fact that you know Akhilesh Yadav better than his family members? So, instead of spreading wings towards east Uttar Pradesh, you are venturing towards Rajasthan and Haryana.

Akhilesh is a young man and did some good work as the Chief Minister. Recognising his potential, we tied up with him and supported his candidature for the chief ministership. There is no confusion on the role. We will also be going to the east. We have an organisational base there. In the last election, we were not able to get tickets because Om Prakash Rajbhar and the Peace Party had their own claims. This time our role was limited but that doesn’t mean I don’t seek a larger foot print for my party in Uttar Pradesh.

There were green shoots. One is that solidarity across a wide region was achieved and farmers expressed themselves in a vibrant manner on social media. Till the farmers’ agitation, the perception was that nobody could take on the BJP in the social media. During the agitation, ordinary people and farmers became influencers and ultimately the government had to realise that the movement was correct in its core demands. We have to wait and watch for the long term impact on Indian polity.

In hindsight, how do you see the political ambition of farmer leaders and the Samyukta Kisan Morcha’s (SKM) stand on participation in electoral politics?

I respect the SKM’s decision but I don’t understand it. We feel that farmers are under-represented in Indian politics. They can’t remain bystanders. Everything is not about contesting elections but if somebody in our ranks has a political ambition, it should not be considered negative.

But it has been alleged that the RLD denied tickets to Bharatiya Kisan Union leaders?

It is not like that. There may be two points of view on the selection of a particular candidate but those who stood on our ticket had the support of the BKU cadre. We share the same topi. Even the symbolism is the same. Our doors are open for committed farmer activists.

Recently, you changed your Twitter surname to Bishnoi. Is it a political move for the coming Rajasthan polls?

The birth anniversary of my mother, a Bishnoi, falls in June. Also, my cousin said because of a gangster (Lawrence Bishnoi,) the entire community is being tarnished. This is the only community in the country that stands for ecological sustainability, environment and climate change. If they are feeling threatened, we should support. So, I have changed my Twitter handle for a month. More than politics, it is about providing moral leadership.

If Chaudhary Charan Singh could stand in Jat College Baraut and say that a caste’s name must be removed from an educational institution, it was because he had the moral fibre. When he was in government, he introduced a rule. Today, it is called Janta Vedic College.

What is your plan for Rajasthan? Will the alliance with the Congress continue?

I see no reason to change the alliance partner. Our MLA will vote for the Congress candidate in the coming Rajya Sabha polls. At the same time, we are working on creating a strong party structure in the State.

Unlike your father, your ideological commitment seems firm. But don’t you feel ideological commitment of smaller parties is sometimes misused by the big brother in the alliance?

Political astuteness is also important to get the maximum benefits for your people. I am not ruling out new alliances. But we must understand that we are living in a polarised environment. It is becoming harder and harder for anyone to explain a change in positioning. In earlier times, it could happen. Now, you have no right to forget what you once said.

Is there a possibility to go with the BJP?

There is always some shared ground. We all have taken faith on the Constitution. If the common ground expands, a lot of parties would like to ally with them.

I don’t think so. Their hands were forced because they realised their situation is untenable. It could not be perceived as a shift in their politics.

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