Rakesh Tikait holds the BJP government. responsible for the rebellion at BKU

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Disgruntled members form BKU Airajnaitk, citing lack of internal democracy and overt politicization

Disgruntled members form BKU Airajnaitk, citing lack of internal democracy and overt politicization

In a dramatic turn of events that could have socio-political ramifications in western Uttar Pradesh, the Tikait faction of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) faced a rebellion on Sunday. The disgruntled members formed a new group called BKU Airajnaitk (meaning apolitical) in Lucknow, citing a lack of internal democracy and overt politicization of the peasant organization.

Ironically, the split came on a day when the organization was celebrating the death anniversary of its founder and perhaps western UP’s greatest agricultural leader, Mahendra Singh Tikait. Rakesh Tikait, spokesman for the BKU, accused the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) of causing the division.

Although there are several BKU factions, it is the Tikait faction that has led farmers’ protests against controversial farm laws in the region. This led to his revival and observers believed that his support played a major role in the better performance of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and Samajwadi Party (SP) alliance in some districts of the Sugar Cane Belt where the presence of the BKU and the khap was strong. This dealt a blow to the Jat leadership of the BJP in the region.

The new organization appointed Rajendra Singh Malik as head of the Gathawala khap, who had been pro-government even during the peasant unrest, as president/boss. It will be chaired by Rajesh Singh Chauhan, a peasant leader from Fatehpur in eastern UP, who was the vice president of the BKU. “We had to make the decision under duress because the BKU moved away from the farmers’ movement,” Chauhan said.

Mr. Malik said he did not support creating trouble on behalf of the farmers’ movement. “Without help from central and state governments, farmers’ lives will become even more difficult,” he said.

Some of the prominent faces who switched sides include Dharmendra Malik, a close associate of the Tikaits and media in charge of the BKU; and Digambar Singh, the head of the BKU’s youth wing. Mr. Singh pointed out that the dynastic nature of the organization was hurting his cause.

Rajveer Singh, state vice president of the newly formed organization, said The Hindu that when the central government took over the Farm Laws, there was no reason to further stretch the anti-government stance. “BKU cadres have always championed the cause of farmers, but voted for different political parties. But ahead of the Assembly elections, the BKU, under the Tikaits, was starting to look like the mouthpiece of the opposition. It was not acceptable to us,” he said.

He said the message had been passed on to senior leaders but they continued to associate with not only the RLD but also the ruling party in Telangana, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Chautala family of Haryana. He cited the presence of Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi Manish Sisodia and Digvijay Singh Chautala at the program in Sisauli.

Mr Rajveer said the new squad had a fair representation of different caste groups and regional aspirations. “Mr. Chauhan is from the east of UP, but five of the seven members of the core group are from the west,” he said.

Accused of politicization and a lack of internal democracy, the group, Mr Tikait said The Hindu that those who wanted to leave the house had to find an excuse. “For the past two days we have tried to listen to their demands, but they said they had no other choice. It seems that the government, threatened by our support among the farmers, has shown these people the fear of bulldozers and the confiscation of their land,” he said.

Mr Tikait said the BKU was severing ties with those who strayed. “Some of them have worked closely with us and I wish them good luck if they want to work for the benefit of farmers,” he said.

He said the organization was registered as BKU and the apolitical part was only mentioned in the statutes. “If they want to call their outfit airajnaitikwe have no problem,” Mr. Tikait said.

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