Did farmers in India reject Modi’s BJP in the 2024 election?

In 2014, Narendra Modi, the charismatic leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was elected with the promise of transforming India’s agriculture industry. Farmers throughout the nation, notably in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha area, were hopeful that Modi’s pledges would relieve their hardships. However, a decade later, these promises seem unmet, and once-staunch supporters have become vociferous detractors.

Modi’s Promises for Farmers
During his 2014 campaign, Modi vowed to completely restructure the agriculture industry. His objectives included tripling farmers’ wages, improving market prices, and solving the persistent problem of agricultural debt. The Vidarbha area, notorious for its high farmer suicide rates, was a major target of these pledges. Modi’s visit to the hamlet of Dabhadi in Yavatmal district demonstrated his determination to solve these challenges.

Initial enthusiasm in Yavatmal
When Modi came to Dabhadi, the farmers were brimming with optimism. Modi visited the community, which was selected for its strategic significance, and assured the locals that their living circumstances would change soon. Farmers like Dabhane, a Dabhadi local, became fervent Modi supporters, hoping that their problems would soon be over.

Deepening Farm Crisis Under Modi’s Rule
Despite early hope, the situation for farmers in the Vidarbha area deteriorated. According to government statistics, 10,122 farmers committed suicide between January 2015 and December 2023, representing an increase over the preceding decade. Farmers’ economic circumstances worsened, and their yearly revenues remained low. In 2022, the average yearly income of a farmer was Rs 10,218 ($122), indicating significant economic misery.

Controversial Farm Laws
In 2020, the Modi administration enacted three agriculture legislation aiming at deregulating the agricultural industry. Farmers protested the rules, fearing that they would lead to increasing corporatization and the reduction of minimum support prices (MSPs). The government’s heavy-handed approach to the demonstrations, which included arrests and brutal crackdowns, fuelled public outrage. Although the rules were finally rescinded, the farmers’ faith in the government had been irreversibly harmed.

Dabhane’s Story.
Dabhane, a once ardent supporter, became a symbol of the disillusioned farmer. When Modi visited Yavatmal in February 2024, Dabhane sought to meet with him and express his unhappiness. Instead, he was held by police and only freed after Modi’s departure. When the BJP’s seat count in Maharashtra fell in future elections, Dabhane felt vindicated. The party’s drop from 23 seats in 2019 to 9 in 2024 was attributed to rural dissatisfaction.

National Impact on the BJP’s Performance
Farmers’ anger was not restricted to Maharashtra. Nationally, the BJP’s dominance shrank to 240 seats out of 543, a significant decrease from 303 in 2019. According to the analysis, the BJP’s low performance in rural regions had a big role. The opposition Congress-led INDIA coalition recorded a significant increase in rural vote share, showing a change in political allegiances caused by agricultural poverty.

Case Studies from Other States.
Haryana, known as India’s breadbasket, saw the BJP’s seat total fall from 10 to 5. The opposition Congress relied on rural resentment.
Punjab: The BJP failed to win any seats in Punjab, a state primarily reliant on agriculture and severely impacted by agricultural policies.
Rajasthan: Despite winning the state government in 2019, the BJP’s parliamentary seats fell from 25 to 14, with major gains for agricultural leaders such as Amraram.
Uttar Pradesh: The BJP’s strength fell dramatically from 62 seats in 2019 to 33 in 2024, reflecting broad rural dissatisfaction.
Government data on farmer suicides
Between 2018 and 2022, 53,478 farmers committed suicide as a result of mounting debt, low pay, and unpredictable weather patterns. Experts believe that the Modi government’s policies aggravated these concerns. Devinder Sharma, an agricultural expert, observes that the absence of meaningful treatment has made farmers feel abandoned.

Economic Pressures on Farmers.
Farmers in the Vidarbha area and beyond are under tremendous economic hardship. The anticipated doubling of agricultural earnings is still a distant dream, with many farmers earning less than Rs 30 ($0.37) per day. Low market prices for goods, along with increased production expenses, have forced many farmers into debt traps.

Agricultural Reform and Protests
The contentious agricultural legislation of 2020 energized the farming community. Despite the government’s ultimate repeal of the regulations, farmers continue to seek legal assurances for MSP and other safeguards. Protests continue, with farmers assembling around the nation to push for their demands.

Political Mobilization for Farmers
The demonstrations have not only raised awareness of agricultural concerns but have also sparked political mobilization among farmers. In Punjab and Haryana, farmers aggressively campaigned against BJP candidates, often banning them from accessing villages. This grassroots political effort had a big influence on the election results.

Impact on the BJP Campaigns
Farmer demonstrations interrupted BJP campaigns in many major agricultural states. In Punjab, BJP leader Preneet Kaur recognized the “farmers vs. BJP” struggle. This feeling was repeated in Maharashtra and other states where farmer-led opposition had a significant impact on election outcomes.

Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region
Cotton growers in Vidarbha have taken a particularly harsh blow. Falling cotton prices and insufficient MSP have made farming untenable. The government’s reduction of import levies on premium cotton further lowered prices, worsening farmers’ problems. Young farmers, such as Vaibhav Pandit, have become politically involved in response to economic hardship and the demonstrations in northern India.

Anger among onion farmers
Farmers in Maharashtra’s onion belt have seen prices drop as a result of government measures. The unexpected prohibition on onion exports in late 2023 led prices to plummet, resulting in substantial financial losses for producers. Bharat Dighole, the chairman of the Maharashtra State Onion Farmers’ Association, blasted the government for failing to communicate with farmers before making policy choices. The timing of the export restriction removal, shortly before elections, was seen as a frantic but futile effort to appease farmers.

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