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Punjab has shown the BJP what it thinks of the new farm laws – the party has been routed in municipal elections in the state, losing even in the pockets where it has sitting MLAs. And, remember, these are urban elections. Rural Punjab, which is more directly affected by the farm laws, is likely to be even angrier.In neighbouring Haryana, Chief Minister Manohar Lal got an early taste of the popular mood last month. Protesting farmers didn’t allow him to address a BJP-organised Kisan Mahapanchayat in Karnal, despite heavy police bandobast. Now, ahead of panchayat elections in the state, the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), one of the largest farmer unions has called for a virtual boycott of the BJP.Many on the liberal side of India’s political divide believe this could be Narendra Modi’s Anna Hazare moment. Coincidentally, that happened exactly 10 years ago, just two years after the UPA had returned to power with a bigger mandate. Kisan Baburao Hazare became a symbol around which public anger over the economic slowdown coalesced. Now, a different kind of kisan is giving hope to the opposition that a chink has opened up in Modi’s armour.But this would be nothing short of wishful thinking.For starters, Punjab was never a crucial state for the Modi BJP. In both 2014 and 2019, the party won just 2 seats. Haryana is different. The BJP won all 10 seats here in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, but barely managed to hold on to the state in the subsequent assembly elections. Manohar Lal Khattar’s return made him Haryana’s longest serving non-Jat Chief Minister since Bhajan Lal.In fact, the BJP is largely seen as a non-Jat party in the state, and much of its political rhetoric has been centred around ending Jat dominance in government jobs. The violent Jat agitation of 2016 helped the BJP consolidate the non-Jat votes, while Jats moved further away from the party. This resulted in big losses for the party in the Jat belts in the assembly elections of 2019. Analysis by Radhika Kumar shows that the BJP got just 8 of 29 seats in Jat-dominated Central Haryana, and just 17 of 38 seats in the GT Road belt, which was the worst affected by the 2016 Jat agitation. Equally news24nationificant is that the BJP lost badly in the rural belt, while it gained in urban centres like Faridabad.So the BJP has little left to lose amongst farming communities in Punjab and Haryana. On the contrary, the Jat-led farmers agitation in Haryana could help the party make deeper inroads into the 20 percent Dalit vote in the state, many of whom are likely to be agricultural labourers who are on the receiving end of rural power relations. At best, it could cost the BJP five seats in Haryana and the two it has in Punjab.Much bigger political gains are to be made in the rest of India, if PM Modi can present the farmers’ agitation as essentially one of rich landowners who exploit the poor in rural India.To understand this, we need to stop equating rural India with farming. In 2011, about 69 percent of Indians lived in villages. Even if that has dropped to 60 percent by now, at least 835 million people live in rural India. Since family size is larger in villages, that would amount to about 167 million households. Are these all farming families? No. NABARD’s Rural Financial Inclusion Survey (NAFIS) of 2017 tells us that 52 percent of rural households are non-agricultural. That means 86 million households in rural India do not produce their own food. More than half of these families are wage labourers, and about a third have a private or government job. Within those who are considered to be farmers, 6 percent have less than 0.004 acres of land, and another 31 percent have less than 1 acre of land.Paddy grown on one acre would fetch an average Indian farmer about Rs 15,600 in profit if cash expenses and family labour costs are included. If you take into account the imputed cost of finance and rent (what is called C2 cost) then it will yield a measly Rs 5025 in profit. This is over a six-month season, which means a monthly return of Rs 840-2,600 for a family of five. 55 percent of rural families earn nothing from farming, and another 15 percent get less than Rs 2,600 per month. In effect, 70 percent of rural families in India will not be affected by the farm laws.Their earnings will only be affected if opportunities for agricultural wage-work reduces, or the government spends less on MGNREGA. In fact, it is quite possible that at least one crore people in rural India earn nothing from farming, but get Rs 6,000 a year from the PM-Kisan scheme, because they are technically considered to be farmers. It is news24nationificant that the Modi government has increased its outlay on food subsidy (even if much of it is to simply clean up its books), at a time when it is increasingly withdrawing other subsidies. A big chunk of additional spending in this year’s budget is on providing clean water, yet another way to reach out to the rural poor.Agricultural households are most likely to be hit by the farm laws are those who own more than one acre of land. That’s about 63 percent of agricultural households, which amounts to about 30 percent of rural households. Chances are that a news24nationificant section of these belong to dominant agricultural castes which are already aligned with their own representative parties – Samajwadi Party in UP, RJD in Bihar, JDS in Karnataka, or even NCP in Maharashtra. The BJP can make very little inroads here.By presenting the farm laws as reforms aimed at ending the dominance of rich farmers, the BJP can hope to rally together the remaining 70 percent of rural voters. The Modi Government’s policies of providing subsistence-level income and services to the poorest of the poor also provides an economic base for it to claim that it is pro-poor.At the same time, opening up agriculture to big corporates, the mega-privatisation plan announced in Budget 2021, PM Modi’s public stand in favour of the private sector, will ensure that the BJP continues to be the most-trusted party for India Inc. This will ensure that a news24nationificant section of mainstream media stays on the government’s side, and helps push the government’s version of the farm laws across India. It will also ensure that the BJP continues to be the biggest beneficiary of corporate money, without which no party can hope to fund the massive electoral machinery required to win polls in India.(Aunindyo Chakravarty was Senior Managing Editor of NDTV’s Hindi and Business news channels.)Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.