Since November last year, farmers from different states particularly from Punjab, Haryana and western UP have been staging protests at the borders of the national capital demanding repeal of the new farm laws and legal guarantee for MSP on their produce.
Rakesh Tikait has been leading the farmers protest at Ghazipur border which is one epicentre of the ongoing agitation along with Tikri and Singhu border where leaders from the farmer unions in Punjab have been blocking the highways for nearly one year.
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement to repeal the three contentious farm laws the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of farm unions, spearheading the agitation against the three agriculture laws, has welcomed the Prime Minister’s decision.
However, riding high after forcing the Union government to withdraw the three farm laws, farmer unions are now contemplating taking the political plunge. Notwithstanding, it is afraid that, farmer union that transforms into a political party will lose the high ground and be forced into the logic of electoral politics. And that in turn is bound to dilute its claim of representing India’s farmers and working as a pressure group. Farmer unions must know when to quit.
Taking a leaf from political success of Arvind Kejriwal, a close confident of Anna Hazare, Farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni on Saturday floated his political party Sanyukt Sangharsh Party and said it will contest the next year Punjab assembly polls.
Chaduni is a member of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of 40 farm unions that led an over a year-long farmers’ agitation against three central agri laws, which have been repealed.
”We are launching the Sanyukt Sangharsh Party,” he said while addressing a news conference here. The party will contest the Punjab assembly polls, which are due early next year, Chaduni said.
”Our objective will be to purify politics and bring good people forward,” said Chaduni who is also the president of the Haryana Bhartiya Kisan Union. Slamming political leaders, he said that they frame policies in “favour of capitalists while ignoring the interests of the poor”. The Sanyukt Sangharsh Party will be a secular one, he said and added that it will work for the welfare of all sections of society.
Replying to a query, Chaduni said he will not fight the upcoming polls in Punjab. To another question, he said his party will try to contest all 117-assembly seats in the state. Chaduni, who had batted for ‘Mission Punjab’, has been asking farmer outfits from the state to fight the upcoming elections.
After the return of the Agriculture Act, most farmer leaders of Punjab are also preparing to contest the elections.
In a decision that could have a major impact on the Punjab assembly elections due next year, 25 farmer unions – which were part of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) that spearheaded the agitation against the three fam laws – have decided to jump into the poll fray. The question is, who will benefit from the election of farmer leaders?
The decision of the farmer unions to get involved in politics was taken in a Kisan Union meeting at Mullanpur near Ludhiana on Friday. December 17.
The 25 unions contesting the elections will hold another meeting on December 25, and the decision will be announced officially. The Farmer Unions are most likely to forge an alliance with the Aam Aadmi property.
However, seven unions of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) have decided to stay away from Punjab politics. Reportedly, the Unions like
- Kirti Kisan Union,
- Krantikari Kisan Union,
- BKU Krantikari,
- Doaba Sangharsh Committee,
- BKU Sidhupur,
- Kisan Sangharsh Committee and
- Jai Kisan Andolan
will not be taking part in Punjab politics. The Seven unions not participating in the elections have requested that the SKM flag not be used in the political campaign, as all SKM constituents not joining politics.
The BKU Ugrahan, the largest farmer union of Punjab declared that they would not be part of any political front as their sole objective is to remain dedicated to taking up farmer issues.
Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary of BKU Ugrahan, told “I don’t want to comment on anyone’s political party or anyone’s discussion over the issue. But our union is very clear that we are not part of any political system and will never be even in future. Our focus is to get farmer issues resolved because by being part of the political system you can’t act as a strong pressure group.
He also said, “We know very well the role of political parties on the issue of farm laws. Hence, BKU Ugrahan can never think on these lines. Making new political parties will not serve any purpose as already parties are around and a few more will come. This will only divide people’s votes and may favour some political party or the other.”
BKU-Ugrahan has also announced that it will not participate in the elections in any way.
President of Kisan Sangharsh Committee, Inderjit Singh Kot Buddha has revealed that his unions will not be contesting elections to stay focussed on the core issues concerning farmers. He said, “I told the other leaders that politics could become our weakness, hence we would not want to be a part of the political forum,”.
Inderjit Singh Kot Buddha has further stated that he would not object to other unions contesting the elections.
BKU Sidhupur president Jagjeet Singh Dallewal said his union had made it clear that it will not be participating in the Assembly elections in any way, nor will it support any political party. “If we do, there will be no difference left between us and traditional political parties,” he added.
Baldev Singh Sirsa, president of the Lok Bhalai Insaaf Welfare Society, has joined hands with Dallewal. “We are following the same ideology as BKU Sidhupur and will not be participating in these elections in any way,” he told ThePrint.
Rakesh Tikait of Bhartiya Kisan Union is not new in political Arena. He also tried his hand at elections but lost both times. In 2007, Tikait contested the UP-Assembly polls from Khatauli constituency in Muzaffarnagar as an independent candidate. In 2014, he fought the Lok Sabha election from Amroha district on a Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) ticket.
However, Bhartiya Kisan Union said that they won’t be conducting any elections after the three-year-long protests against now withdrawn farm laws. Tikait urged political parties to not use his photos or name in their posters. “I’m not going to contest any election and no political party should use my name or photo in their posters,” news agency ANI quoted the farm leader as saying.