A group of distressed farmers from Tamil Nadu have announced plans to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2019 general election by filing 111 nominations from his Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency, PTI reported on Saturday.
Farmer leader P Ayyakannu claimed that at least 300 farmers had already booked train tickets from Tamil Nadu to Varanasi with the aim of filing their nominations before the last date of April 23.
The plan is a means of registering their protest against the Bharatiya Janata Party for failing to fulfill its promises to farmers made during the 2014 election. Ayyakannu claimed that they would withdraw their plans to contest in the election against Modi if the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party agrees to include a range of the farmers’ demands in its election manifesto.
The demands include farm loan waivers from all banks, profitable prices for produce, interlinking of rivers to ensure availability of water and pensions of Rs 5,000 per person for farmers above the age of 60.
The farmers, most of them members of the National South Indian Rivers Inter-Linking Farmers Association, hit national headlines in 2017 when they resorted to extreme forms of protest in New Delhi to get the attention of the government. In April 2017, when they were denied a meeting with Modi to discuss the drought relief fund, the farmers protested naked outside the Prime Minister’s Office.
In the month before that, the farmers held a prolonged protest at Jantar Mantar during which they shaved their heads, held pieces of dead animals like snakes in their mouths, and displayed the skulls of other farmers who had killed themselves because of the massive debt they are facing. In September 2017, they protested by eating human excreta and threatening to eat human flesh in order to draw attention to their plight.
On Saturday, farmer leader Ayyakannu told PTI that Tamil Nadu parties like the DMK and the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam had already promised full loan waivers to farmers in their 2019 election manifestos. He claimed that the farmers had chosen to push the BJP to include loan waivers in its manifesto, rather than the Congress, because the BJP is currently the ruling party.