Lucknow: Several days have passed since nine lives were lost in the brutal violence that erupted in the Lakhimpur-Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh. But no arrests have been made by the state administration which does not tire of making tall claims of having established 'Ram Rajya' in the country's most populous state.
Four of those killed were farmers who have been raising their voice against the three new farm laws introduced by prime minister Narendra Modi, while four happened to be local activists of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and one a journalist who was caught in the crossfire between the two sides.
These gruesome killings came close on the heels of last week's cold-blooded murder of a young businessman by an alleged extortionist police team led by an inspector in Gorakhpur, rated as the state's most well-governed district by virtue of being the home of chief minister Yogi Adityanath. Here too, the culprit is stated to be still "absconding."
The inaction of the UP cops in both these recent cases is in sharp contrast to their overzealous action against journalists , who got booked, arrested and jailed at the drop of the hat , simply for being critical of the government.
Delayed action against the culprits in any such situation like Lakhimpur naturally arouses suspicion over the sincerity of the authorities in taking objective action. And in the case of Lakhimpur , the manner in which opposition leaders were physically prevented from visiting Tikonia village where the killings took place, further compounds these doubts about the government's intentions.
Perhaps the ruling dispensation can see the writing on the wall – that the issue is not going to die down with the passage of time and it could also have serious repercussions in the UP state assembly elections,barely five months ahead.
Until last week, it was felt that the agitation of farmers could have some bearing on the voting pattern only in Western UP, where the farmer's movement has been very strong. But, the mowing down of four farmers by a speeding jeep, allegedly occupied by the son of the local MP and Union minister of state for Home Ajay Mishra has clearly re-ignited farmers across the length and breadth of not only Uttar Pradesh but many other states. What has added insult to injury is the failure of the BJP government in UP to arrest any of the named culprits so far.
The Union Minister's son Ashish Mishra, who has the reputation of a 'bahubali' has flatly denied his involvement, while his father has moved heaven and earth to ensure that the son gets a clean chit. Evidently, that is the reason why the entire opposition has been demanding that he should be sacked , as his presence on the prime could easily influence the investigations.
When Ajay Mishra was summoned by Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday, it was felt that he may be asked to step down. But the manner in which Mishra attended his office the same afternoon and the fact that he is scheduled to chair a function of the ministry on Thursday is a clear pointer towards how things are churning out in Delhi.
According to BJP insiders, it is unlikely that any action would follow against Mishra, even as the son may be made to face some music only to pacify the rising tempers in Lakhimpur.
Mishra was inducted into the Narendra Modi cabinet during the last expansion in July 2021, essentially because of being a Brahmin. In caste-ridden Uttar Pradesh, this was believed to be part of the "Brahmin wooing" exercise undertaken by the BJP to offset chief minister Yogi Adityanath's overtly pro-Thakur actions. Not very long ago, BJP had managed to win over a Brahmin former Congress minister Jitin Prasad , who was ushered into the Yogi Adityanath cabinet last month.
Even though both Mishra and Prasad were not high profile leaders, it was their Brahmin lineage that served BJP's purpose of symbolism . "Now with election just round the corner , Mishra's removal from the Union cabinet could adversely impact BJP's Brahmin wooing", argues political analyst Govind Pant Raju.
Meanwhile, it goes without saying that the incident is bound to have its bearing in multiple ways on different political parties in the coming election. While the key opposition parties have done their best to show their solidarity with the cause of agitating farmers , currently it appears that the Congress and Samajwadi Party could benefit most out of it.
Congress- because of the commitment that became visible in the actions of Priyanka Gandhi. Priyanka Gandhi managed to hoodwink the authorities and made her way up to Sitapur, which lies on way to Lakhimpur.
She was under the police scanner as soon as she landed at the Lucknow airport, from where she was followed by the police contingent up to her place of stay in the city on October 3 evening.
Showing unusual grit and determination, she managed to sneak out of the house around which the local police had spread its net, and walked about half a kilometer to board a waiting car. What followed was a cat and mouse game, that made her switch cars to further dodge the cops, and move on towards her destination until she was intercepted some 60 km away from Lucknow. From there she was taken to the government guest house in Sitapur and put under arrest at 4.30 am on October 4.
However, she refused to budge from her stand and insisted on remaining under arrest until she was allowed to go to Lakhimpur-Kheri. Finally, her demand was conceded on October 6 afternoon. Meanwhile, her brother Rahul Gandhi too flew in from Delhi and was joined by Punjab chief minister Charanjeet Singh Channi and Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel. The entire Congress entourage reached the village by late evening when they went from house to house of two of the four farmer victims. Since the remaining two hailed from the neighbouring Bahraich, these leaders decided to visit them on October 7.
While Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Sanjay Singh paid a visit to the families on October 6, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra were slated to reach there on October 7.
Even as a galaxy of politicians would be making a beeline to the village , Samajwadi Party is likely to get a huge political mileage as it always had reasonably good hold over the 'Terai' belt of which Lakhimpur is an integral part. The support base got eroded on account of the pro-Modi wave. The political fall-out may not bring any dividends to Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) essentially because the party has, of late, earned the reputation of BJP's "Team B". Doubtlessly, the ruling BJP is in for a setback on this account, but how much loss is it likely to suffer, only time will tell.