December 17, 2021 11:02:44 am
The end of agitation over three farm laws is going to test the unity of farmer unions in Punjab ahead of Assembly elections.
Despite the differences over ideologies and issues, more than 32 farmer unions in the state had to come together under pressure of the masses to oppose the three farm laws. The pressure worked and despite initial fissures, farmer unions largely stayed focused on the main agenda and grabbed a victory that seemed impossible at one time. Now all eyes are on how they would stay together to decide on their strategy for the Assembly elections.
“We will think about election after paying obeisance at Golden Temple. Our party, Revolutionary Marxist Party of India, used to contest elections in the past. This time we are open to new formations. This agitation was anti-capitalist and all the leaders have fought against capitalism. So we won’t mind learning from experiences and make new alliances for elections,” Kulwant Singh Sandhu of Jamhoori Kisan Sabha had said.
Different approach on politics
Balbir Singh Rajewal of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) has emerged as a tall leader during the farmer agitation. He enjoyed political relations with the SAD, Congress and AAP in the past.
There are also farm bodies like Kirti Kisan Union associated with CPI(ML) New Democracy, which have their own political party active in electoral politics. One of the largest farmer unions in Malwa, Bhartiya Kisan Union Ughrahan, has taken a principled stand to stay away from electoral politics, though their cadre is versatile and comes from all mainstream political parties.
Jagmohan Singh, general secretary of BKU Dakhonda, said, “It is in our constitution that no office-bearer would contest elections or support anyone in election. It is clear that we are not going to be part of any political formation of farmer unions for Punjab Assembly elections. We have opposed any such idea.”
Chaduni tested waters
Despite being from Haryana, farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni has managed to organise impressive road shows and rallies in Punjab with a promise of providing a political alternative to people even before the three farm laws were taken back. Some farmer activists had organised a big rally for Chaduni at Valtoha of Majha earlier this year.
The organisers hadn’t invited any leader from farmer unions of Punjab just to make a point that they are interested only in those farm leaders, who are clear about participating in electoral politics. Unlike Chaduni, no farmer union from Punjab was in a position to make any commitment about electoral politics till the farm laws were taken back and it was the reason why Charuni also faced opposition from farmer unions for making political moves.
However, according to sources, now after the end of farm agitation, many farmer unions are interested in jumping into electoral politics. A big face of Sanyukat Kisan Morcha was already in negotiation with the Aam Aadmi Party. Besides, some people say farmer unions should float their own party and contest.
“I have come to know that some farmer leaders are interested in becoming CM. They can contest elections. But we are not going to support them. We have always exposed the anti-people character of political parties in the past too,” said Joginder Singh Ughrahan during an interaction with the media.
Divide within and outside Left
Around 15 farmer unions are with the Left background and further divided into different ideologies of the Left. It will be interesting to see how unions with the Left background join hands with non-Left unions for Assembly elections.
When asked if Left farmer unions would be comfortable in making election strategy with non- Left leaders like Balbir Singh Rajewal, Kulwant Singh Sandhu said, “Rajewal and others all have fought against capitalism in this agitation. There should be no problem in coming together with them.” “I have never supported a political party in the past and will never do in future,” said Jagjit Singh Dallewal of BKU Sidhupur, when asked if he would support any political outfit grown from farmer agitation.
However, Rajewal, while responding to a question on Dallewal on Wednesday, went on to say that Dhalewal was an RSS man. “Dallewal is associated with Bhartiya Kisan Sang of RSS,” said Rajewal. Similarly, Kirti Kisan Union leader Rajinder Deep had alleged in a recent interview with a Punjabi web channel that Yoginder Yadav was an RSS man in the farm agitation and Yadav’s conspiracies were foiled by Rajinder’s union. Yadav also has a political party, Swaraj India.
Lack of face with central authority
Many non-Left farmer leaders have remained in open alliance with one political party or the other in the past and also enjoyed perks for their support to parties. It would be interesting to see if these leaders would shun their political past for new formations with other rival farmer unions and how the established political parties react to such farmer leaders going away from them.
Options and limitations
For unions interested in jumping into electoral politics, options could be many but there is limited time before the Assembly elections. This will be the biggest constraint to decide on joining or making an alliance with established political party. However, the biggest question is: can farmer unions make a unanimous decision on their political move?
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