The “farmer leaders” claiming to be the voices of the people on the streets of Delhi might not quite have the mandate of the larger populace.
Rakesh Tikait has emerged as one of the most prominent faces of the recent protests in Delhi. He’s represents the Bharatiya Kisan Union, and often addresses the media from the protest sites. Since the beginning of the protests, he’s been quoted by the media as being the voice of farmers. “The government has failed to address the issues of the farmers. We are proceeding to #Delhi now,” he’d declared on 28th November.
On 3rd December, he had met the government as a representative of the farmers.
He’d later led the blockading of roads and highways around Delhi.
This would make one think that Rakesh Tikait is a leader of some heft, who can mobilize masses at will, and bring the national capital to a halt. But that isn’t quite the case: in the 2014 elections, Rakesh Tikait had managed to secure just 9,539 votes.
Rakesh Tikait had fought the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from the Amroha constituency in Uttar Pradesh on a Rashtriya Lok Dal ticket. He had managed to garner 9,539 votes, finishing a distant fourth behind BJP’s Kanwar Singh Tanwar, who’d secured 5.28 lakh votes, SP’s Humera Akhtar, who’d secured 3.7 lakh votes, and BSP’s Farhat Hasan, who’d secured 2.62 lakh votes. Tikait, with a mere 9,539 votes, was fourth with 0.8 percent of the overall vote.
It’s curious how someone with so little popular support in his own constituency can claim to speak for thousands of farmers who’ve tried to blockade Delhi. What’s also strange is Rakesh Tikait’s opinions on the farm laws: when the laws were first mooted in June, he’d hailed the reforms, claiming that the laws represented a the fulfilment of a long-standing wish of India’s farmers. But come November, he’s singing a completely different tune, claiming that the laws would destroy the livelihoods of Indian farmers, and has reached the streets of Delhi to protest.
Rakesh Tikait isn’t the only “farmer leader” who has a unusual profile for someone who’s managing to hold the national capital to ransom. Another “farmer leader” has a strange background: for a protest that’s meant to be against rich capitalists like Ambani and Adani, farmer leader VM Singh has a net worth of Rs. 631 crore. He also has 8 criminal cases filed against him.