Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday hinted that the ongoing farmer agitation was being hijacked by people with different agendas, reported NDTV. He pointed out that photographs of people who delivered “anti-national speeches”, and support the “Naxalite movement” were seen during the farmers’ protest.

“I’m not speaking of all farmers and farmer organisations, but I want to ask you something,” he told the news channel. “In our Gadchiroli district, near Nagpur, in Vidarbha, a person who supports the Naxalite movement was investigated. The court also did not grant him bail. How did his photo appear in this movement? What is his link to farming and farmers?”

He alleged that there were “some elements that are using this farmers’ movement to defame them and take the agenda to another angle”.

“Someone who gave anti-national speeches, someone who has no direct or indirect links with farmers, how did his photo appear? So I said there are some elements that are using this farmers’ movement to defame them and take the agenda to another angle. This is not the agenda of farmers and farmer organisations. Farmers should stay away from that. That’s all.”

— Nitin Gadkari to NDTV

On Monday, Gadkari had alleged that “some elements” were trying to mislead the farmers. “I feel it is wrong,” he had told ANI.

Last month, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Information Technology Cell head Amit Malviya had alleged that the ongoing farmers’ protests have “Khalistani and Maoist” links. Malviya was the second prominent BJP leader to suggest the involvement of Khalistani supporters in the farmers’ protest. Before him, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar made similar allegations. None of them, however, provided any evidence to support their claims.

Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi. The farmers fear the agricultural reforms will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, will lead to the deregulation of crop-pricing, deny them fair remuneration for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporations.