While protests, primarily concentrated around Delhi, continue over the central government's new farm reforms, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in Madhya Pradesh is going all out to get farmers to back the laws.
Led by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the BJP top brass has been the most vocal in favour of the contentious legislation in the past few weeks. State agriculture minister Kamal Patel has been leading the charge on taking the attack to the opposition on these laws.
Patel, Bhopal MP Pragya Thakur, culture minister Usha Thakur, home minister Narottam Mishra and others have been calling the farmers' protests sponsored demonstrations orchestrated by the opposition and farm sector middlemen who are "hurt" by the government's move towards modernisation.
Patel has also alleged that fake farm bodies have "sprouted like mushrooms" in the country, of late.
Chief minister Shivraj Chouhan, who calls himself the son of a farmer, has the added responsibility of clearing the air on these farm bills.
Observers say the pressure on Chouhan is compounded by the fact that the BJP returned to power in Madhya Pradesh after accusing the-then Congress government of betraying farmers on a host of issues, including farm loan waiver, crop insurance, crop compensation, etc.
The Congress is now milking the opportunity to show the BJP government in poor light against the backdrop of the row over the farm laws and the massive farmers’ unrest they have triggered.
While leaders like Chouhan, ex-CM Uma Bharti, union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Rajya Sabha member Jyotiraditya Scindia, BJP state head VD Sharma, party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya and others threw weight behind the farm laws, even Prime Minister Narendra Modi has tried to explain the benefits of the laws to farmers and allay their fear.
"If anyone has any concerns, then with our heads bowed and our hands folded, with humility, we are willing to discuss with them and assuage their fears," he said on Friday, addressing farmers in Madhya Pradesh via video. He also said that though agricultural reforms were discussed for over two decades by every government, the opposition was misleading farmers.
Saying that his government’s intent was pure as gangajal, the Prime Minister alleged that the Congress party promised farm loan waiver but could never implement it.
Besides routine advocacy in favour of the farm reforms, the BJP has been organising press conferences and ‘chaupals’ in all the districts of the country on the new laws from Friday. 700 press conferences and 700 ‘chaupals’ are being held, and in Madhya Pradesh the party carried out a similar drive on December 15 and 16.
The party held kisan sammelans and senior leaders including Chouhan and Tomar, who hails from Morena in MP, also addressed these conventions, backing the farm laws in their speeches.
Besides organising meetings with farmers, the party plans to launch a mass-contact programme. BJP leaders, including Chouhan, will address farmers separately in different divisions of the state.
Bharti appeared to be the lone leader of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh who empathised with the farmers' protests, saying their anger was justified, but added that instead of the agitation they should have a dialogue with the Centre.
With the stir around Delhi showing no signs of ending, the BJP has been in damage-control mode particularly in MP where civic body polls will be held in a few days.
Madhya Pradesh, a politically charged state, holds added importance as it was on the boil during the farm agitation in 2017, especially after five farmers died in police firing in Mandsaur.
However, surprisingly and bringing much respite to the BJP, Madhya Pradesh has remained unaffected to a large extent by the farmers’ stir this time.
The Congress party has been accusing the BJP of defaming protesting farmers instead of backing them on their demands.
“It’s highly shameful that farmers are sitting out there in the open amid freezing temperatures but the CM (Shivraj) who calls himself a farmer's son and well-wisher of farmers is busy running a campaign backing these laws,” Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee chief Kamal Nath said recently.
Congress Rajya Sabha member Digvijaya Singh too has called these laws "draconian" which have been slapped on farmers by the "high-handed" Centre without taking them into confidence.
Farm bodies like Bharatiya Kisan Union and Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangh have backed the farmers' stir while RSS-affiliate Bharatiya Kisan Sangh has extended support to the BJP government in defusing the situation.
While farm unrest hasn’t been visible in Madhya Pradesh, hundreds of farmers from the state have staged chakka jam and other protests at Palwal border (Haryana), Agra-Delhi highway and other places. RKMS national convener Shivkumar Sharma ‘Kakkaji’, who is among the farmer leaders negotiating with the Centre, also recently said that farm protests are not visible in MP as these demonstrations were planned for the national capital and surrounding areas.