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Lakhs of farmers streamed into Muzaffarnagar for the Samyukt Kisan Morcha’s largest Kisan mahapanchayat so far. They streamed to hear Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait declare his determination to oust the BJP government. Tikait aims to win the Uttar Pradesh election by tapping into rural anger and uniting farmers and workers across religion and caste.

The crowd welcomed Tikait to the stage with a wave of sound and a traditional trumpet fanfare. They vowed to continue the farmers’ protest till Yogi was overthrown though he was ambivalent about contesting the election himself. During his speech, he called out both “Allahu Akbar” and “Har Har Mahadev”.

Tikait chanted Allah Hu Akbar at Kisan Mahapanchayat.

His vast audience echoed his chants that rang across this western U.P. town. The site of brutal communal riots just eight years ago. “In my father’s time, it was common to hear both chants together during such meetings, and we want to revive that kind of atmosphere again. People welcomed him to the stage with a wave of sound and a traditional trumpet fanfare. They vowed to continue the farmers’ protest till Yogi was overthrown though he was ambivalent about contesting the polls himself.

The SKM is a platform for farm unions that has been protesting against three agricultural reform laws for the last ten months. These laws could affect State-run markets and also called for a legal guarantee for minimum support prices for all farm produce. Unlike in Punjab and Haryana, there is no strong existing network of State-run markets.

The extensive government procurement of crops in the U.P. Hence, for most farmers from the State, who support the Tikait group, the demand for guaranteed MSP prices holds much promise. “We voted for the BJP in 2019 because it promised us MSP rates that would make farming profitable. But Modiji only lied to us. What is the point of declaring MSP if there are no mandis to sell to the government? Does the private trader refuse to buy at that rate? A farmer said he had sold his paddy crop at prices 22% below the announced MSP rate this year.

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