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June 03, 2024

THE POLITICS OF RESERVATION

How and why caste quotas have become the most fractious and polarising issue in Election 2024, impacting the final outcome

RACE TO HARVEST THE FARM VOTE

On May 10, Union Minister of All Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who was in Punjab overseeing the Lok Sabha poll campaign of the Bharatiya Janata Party's Anandpur Sahib candidate Subhash Sharma, found himself at the receiving end of the wrath of the state's protesting farm unions. The local police had to intervene to bring the situation under control. This is no isolated incident. All 13 BJP candidates in the state are facing the ire of the farm unions that are seeking revenge for the confrontation at Punjab's Khanauri and Shambhu barriers in February this yearThis was when the Haryana Police used force to halt the aggressive unions from marching towards Delhi--on their tractors, earthmovers and sundry vehicles. Among their many demands were a legal framework for minimum support price (MSP) for all crops and a complete waiver of farmers' debt. (In Punjab alone, farmers owe Rs 75,000 crore to institutional lenders.) As subsequent parleys with Union ministers failed to reach a resolution, the discontent has been on the boilAnger among farm unions is visible in neighbouring Haryana too, although the impact is limited to certain Jat-dominated pocket boroughs in four seats: Sirsa, Hisar, Rohtak, and Sonipat. Here, the demands extend beyond farm-related issues and include a share in governance. Since Haryana's formation in 1966, the state's politics has been dominated by the farming Jat community. But their

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