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'No one will dare to hold the BJP flag in Punjab'

By SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF
July 14, 2021 07:46 IST
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'BJP leaders are trying to save their lives in Punjab.'

IMAGE: Farmers protest against Bharatiya Janata Party leader Bhupesh Aggarwal at a BJP meeting at Rajpura in Patiala, July 11, 2021. Photograph: Harmeet Sodhi/ANI Photo
 

Anil Joshi was expelled from the Bharatiya Janata Party for anti-party activities last week.

According to the expulsion order, the move came after Joshi expressed his criticism of the Modi government's three farm laws in public, against which farmers in north India have been protesting for months, thus upsetting the party leadership.

His expulsion came on the directions of Ashwani Sharma, the BJP's Punjab unit chief.

Joshi, a former BJP MLA from Amritsar, asks Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf , "When our leaders are getting beaten up across Punjab and their clothes are being torn in public, how could I keep quiet?"

Is it true that you spoke against the farm laws and the BJP's central leadership and, therefore, you were expelled?

I only spoke of saving the BJP in Punjab.

Ashwani Sharma, president of the Punjab BJP, is the custodian of our party (in the state). He is like our family head.

When our leaders are getting beaten up across Punjab and their clothes are being torn in public, how could I keep quiet?

BJP workers in Punjab are demoralised. We have to speak up for the interests and welfare of the people of Punjab.

We are moving under security cover and have not interacted with people.

We have not spoken for farmers, labourers or small traders of Punjab and then you go on to claim that we will form (the next) government in Punjab? It is an utter lie.

We are only trying to save our lives for the last 11 months. And if I speak of saving BJP workers in Punjab, it is not indiscipline.

No one listened to whatever I said within the party forum. Some 90 per cent of BJP workers from Punjab are saying the same thing.

People are sitting on dharnao utside their (BJP workers') homes. They are being socially boycotted.

Boycotted by the people? are Opposition parties ganging up against BJP leaders?

It is the public, they are protesting.

The BJP leaders claim that Naxalites are sitting on dharna with the farmers, without going to the spot even once.

Those who have got nothing to do with politics are also questioning BJP leaders in Punjab as to why are we, as a party, not trying to find an amicable solution (to the issue regarding the farm laws).

Our Sikh brothers are questioning us about our stance on the laws.

Every party, small and big, and every association -- be it of the traders or the transport ones -- says they are with the farmers.

We could have always said that (although) the central government is not listening, the BJP's Punjab unit is supporting farmers.

We could have told the farmers that we will stand by you and mediate to solve your problems.

This is what I said in the meeting. I didn't utter a word against Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the central government in our party's internal meeting.

What did you say at the meeting that seems to have angered your leadership?

I only said that any government that makes laws for any community never makes it for harming that community.

But when lakhs turn out to protest, then many times amending such laws work as a solution.

It is now 11 months since farmers are protesting against these farm laws. Now the situation has reached a deadlock.

For three months, they protested here in Punjab and for the last eight months they have been protesting in Delhi. More than 500 people have died (during the protests).

I only said in our meeting that we could not convince farmers about these laws. I never said repeal the laws.

I only said we must talk to the Centre and the BJP Punjab unit must take this issue forward.

I said, let us make a common draft. It was the duty of the Punjab BJP president to resolve the problem, but he did not do it. It was his negligence.

When these laws came into effect, Punjab farmers demanded only two things to be changed: A. They wanted (the provision of) matters to be taken to court; B. They wanted a guarantee of minimum support price.

One wonders why the farmers are protesting when the Modi government is paying MSP to farmers of Punjab even after they passed the farm laws?

Now, this issue has gone to the Delhi border.

Farmers from Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and many other states have reached Delhi and now they are getting support from across the world, from all quarters.

When the protest was in Punjab, there were only two small demands as I mentioned earlier, but here the BJP leaders started lying.

They told the central leadership that everything was fine in Punjab and farmers were happy with the laws.

When a virtual meeting was conducted, they made Hindus wear Sikh turbans and tell the central leadership that every section of society in Punjab is happy with the farm laws.

They presented a rosy picture about the farm laws in Punjab. They presented them (Hindus wearing Sikh turbans) as farmers at the virtual meeting.

They lied and therefore the problem arose. The BJP's Punjab unit lied to the Modi government about farm laws.

Why did you keep quiet for 11 months?

Dus baar bola (I told them 10 times). I always said this in the party forum.

In March 2021, I openly said that the party must do something about this issue and after that I was not invited to any party meetings.

And, therefore, I had to come out and say it openly.

When the Supreme Court has stayed these farm laws, why are farmers still protesting?

Right now, the temperament of Punjab farmers is high.

Outsiders don't understand the psyche of Punjabis. And till the time the BJP Punjab unit will keep lying, no one will know the truth.

Whichever agitation started from Punjab never stopped, be it the freedom movement or the anti-Emergency one.

I am a Hindu, but I could not stop myself from saying we have to solve Punjab's problem now or else things will get worse.

I had to come out and say it openly that we are Punjabis and we have to solve the problem of Punjab farmers.

My father was martyred during height of Punjab militancy in Taran Taran.

We used to work for the RSS from that time. We have suffered a lot in those days.

What have you faced as a BJP leader in Punjab n the last 11 months?

Yesterday (July 11, 2021), the public tore a BJP leader's clothes in Punjab.

This is happening day to day in Punjab. BJP leaders are trying to save their lives in Punjab.

No one will dare to hold the BJP flag in Punjab.

the laws say that the central government won't intervene to control prices until the price of a commodity rises by 50 per cent.
Recently, prices of dal rose by 22 per cent and the government brought it under the Essential Commodities Act.
When the government itself is not following the farm laws, why are the farmers protesting?

Right now, the three farm laws have not been implemented. The fight is about when the laws really take shape, the government will not even control price rise.

Look at the rise in cooking (mustard) oil prices. The corporates bought it and now see their price.

Another example is the rise in the prices of petroleum products.

The government says they have nothing to do (with it); it's the markets and the companies that decide (the price).

Why are you leaving these things for the private companies to decide? Due to COVID-19, people have lost their jobs and inflation has doubled. People understand these problems.

I am talking of the farm laws. The government did control the price of dal.

You are talking about only one product. Just check the petrol price which is touching the sky. Where is the government?

What will be your next step?

I have nothing in mind right now.

I am not even thinking of contesting the next assembly election or continuing with politics.

I only know that there should be brotherhood in Punjab.

I only feel the Sikh farmers in Punjab must feel that the Hindu Punjabi farmers are with them.

They should not feel let down by them and we should not see bad days like we did earlier (in the 1980s).

Are these farm laws creating a divide between Hindus and Sikhs in Punjab?

I thank the Modi government that they did not fire a bullet on protesting farmers in New Delhi on Republic Day.

Had people died, there would have been more trouble.

Our security personnel too showed tremendous restraint. They ran away and saved their lives, but did not open fire.

Enemies of our country like Pakistan's ISI wanted this to happen.

Terrorists wanted something like this to happen so they could take advantage of the situation.

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SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF / Rediff.com
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