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Monday, January 17, 2022

22 farm unions float a political front in Punjab, to contest all seats

🔴 Rajewal and farmer leaders Harmeet Singh Qadian and Kulwant Singh Sandhu said at least three more farmer organisations might join them.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh |
Updated: December 26, 2021 7:56:53 am
22 farmer organisation came forward to form Samyukta Samaj Morcha on Saturday.

As many as 22 farmer organisations who were a part of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) that spearheaded the year-long farmers’ agitation floated their own political outfit Saturday and announced that they will contest all the 117 seats in the coming Assembly elections.

Balbir Singh Rajewal, 78, who emerged as a prominent face during the farm agitation, will be the face of the front, named the Samyukta Samaj Morcha (SSM). Addressing the media after a meeting, Rajewal and farmer leaders Harmeet Singh Qadian and Kulwant Singh Sandhu said at least three more farmer organisations might join them.

“This was a demand of the people of the state, who said that we had emerged victorious in the farmers’ agitation and should fight on the political front also,” Qadian said, adding that they were just leading the front, and their strength were the people of the state.

While the farmer leaders said that there was no decision on forming an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), sources said talks were on with the party, which had emerged as the principal opposition in the last elections.

The SSM leaders said that the BKU (Dakaunda), BKU (Lakhowal) and BKU (Major Singh Poonewala) might join them too. Their constitutions do not allow them to jump into politics, and they would need to amend the same first, the SSM said.

Jagmohan Singh Dakaunda, the general secretary of the BKU (Dakaunda), said they would hold a meeting on December 27 on whether to support the SSM or not. What was clear, he added, was that they would neither oppose the SSM nor contest polls.

A decision was taken to not go by the name SKM for the political front to keep the Morcha distinct as a purely farmers’ plank. In a statement, the SKM’s nine-member coordination committee, including representatives Darshal Pal and Jagjit Singh Dallewal, said 32 of the Morcha’s member organisations were not in favour of contesting elections.

The organisations opposed to the idea include the BKU (Darshan Pal), BKU (Krantikari), BKU (Sidhupur), Azad Kisan Committee (Doaba), Jai Kisan Andolan, Dasuya Ganna Sangharsh Committee, Kisan Sangharsh Committee, Lok Bhalai Insaf Welfare Society, and Kirti Kisan Union.

Rajewal’s outfit BKU (Rajewal) is the second biggest organisation of farmers in Punjab, with Rajewal, a farm union leader since 1971, considered the state’s tallest leader. During the farmers’ agitation, videos of his speeches were widely circulated. “He has become a national figure now,” a political leader said.

At 43, Qadian is among the youngest farmers leaders in the state, with his organisation BKU (Qadian) counting 70,000 members in Fatehgarh Sahib area. His grandfather was a founding member of the BKU.

Sandhu, the third farmer leader who addressed the SSM meeting on Saturday, heads the Jamhoori Kisan Sabha. A former member of the students’ wing of the CPM, he was shot in his leg during militancy days. He quit the CPM in 2001.

Pointing out that the SKM was a non-political platform for farmers’ issues, comprising 400 organisations from across the country, the SKM committee said the Morcha would neither give a call for boycott of the elections nor would it contest.

The SKM is planning to meet on January 15 to decide its future course of action, now that the farmers’ agitation has been called off after the government repealed the three contentious farm laws.

If the farmers’ political front goes alone, Punjab will see a five-corner contest, including the SSM, Congress, AAP, Akali Dal-BSP alliance, and the BJP with its ally Punjab Lok Congress of Amarinder Singh.

This is likely to dent the fortunes of all political parties, but particularly the Akali Dal that counts the farmers as a major support base. However, with the biggest farmers’ union, BKU (Ugrahan), along with other organisations with Leftist leanings staying away, farmer votes might not rally completely behind the SSM.

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