It took an emotional outburst of a 51-year-old police constable-turned-farmer leader on national television to shift the epicentre of the farmers' agitation from Singhu to Ghazipur in a matter of a few days. The shift also unravelled a drift in leadership from a seemingly Punjab-centric movement to a more Jat-dominated one.
Jat farmer leader Rakesh Tikait now calls the shots. Emerging from the shadows of the more active Punjab farmer leaders like Balbir Singh Rajewal, Tikait now seems to be in control of the agitation. At a Mahapanchayat in Jind on Wednesday, Tikait flexed his muscles. Barring a few Punjab leaders, it was the show of strength of Jats who now seem to be in control of the 70-day agitation against the farm laws.
"Earlier, the Singhu border was what represented the resilience of the thousands of farmers who came from Punjab to protest against the farm laws. But now Ghazipur has taken over, with hundreds of farmers from Haryana and UP camping there. The scene has shifted," said a farm leader.
Those who have been following the agitation from its earlier days point out that during the initial phase, Tikait was acting as second fiddle to the Punjab farmer leaders. Be it talks with the Union government or post-meeting media briefing, the Punjab union leaders were at the forefront. But January 26 triggered a change.
The violence by a section of agitators revealed a clueless Punjab leadership that had failed to keep a tab on the swelling numbers. Tikait filled in the vacuum created by the chaos. Political strategist and analyst Captain Navjeet Sandhu said, "The shift of central face in the agitation is unmissable. The farmers from Punjab are now like supporting actors and the spotlight has shifted to Tikait."
Sandhu said nobody is talking about Singhu or Tikri borders, with the focus now more on Jat-centric Ghazipur border.
"It would be interesting to see who leads the talks from the farmers' side whenever they are held with the Union government," he said.
Though farmer leaders on record deny any rift within the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha ranks, the emergence of a new fulcrum in the ongoing agitation is being watched keenly. "This is a movement which does not belong to any particular state. It’s a farmers' agitation and should be seen like that. Nobody is the boss here," said a leader. But sooner or later the question would arise on who would lead the agitation and who would be that face.