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Saturday, January 29, 2022

In Punjab villages, farmers find unions’ political foray ‘hasty’, question impact on aandolan

As farmers discuss the issue, one common refrain is how this will impact the fight for MSP.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Sangrur |
December 27, 2021 7:28:47 am
Members of the Bhartiya Kisan Union(Ugrahan) protest outside Mini Secretariat in Ludhiana on Sunday. Photo:Gurmeet Singh

AT Sangrur’s Kila Bharian village, the common point of discussion Saturday morning is the political front – SSM – being floated by farmers ahead of Punjab Assembly polls. As farmers discuss the issue, one common refrain is how this will impact the fight for MSP.

Farmer Jasbir Singh (40) said, “This new front will be a talking point in every village. We had been talking about cleaning politics, but had not thought that people from Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) will take this decision so fast. Too fast and too early! Our fight for MSP is still midway.”

Satnam Singh Kila Bharian (30), a fellow farmer interrupted him, “Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has said that that after taking two steps backward, the government will take two steps forward again. But there was no farmer union leader to react on it as they are busy in floating their own political party. Now what will happen to the morcha, our struggle over farming issues was suspended, it has not ended. First meeting of SKM is on January 15 after suspending the protest and much before that we heard news of two political fronts being floated — one by Gurnam Singh Chaduni and another by 22 farmer unions under the leadership of Balbir Singh Rajewal.”

Kuldeep Joshi, a retired Vigilance Bureau Inspector and an active farmer leader in village Duggan of Sangrur said, “No doubt unions with a larger base in many districts are preferring to stay out of political front, but if a farmers’ front is coming, we will support it. We have given enough chances to all political parties, why not the farmers’ front. They know the needs of the farmers.”

Joshi is from BKU (Dakaunda). This union has as of now decided to stay out of politics.
Gurmeet Singh Bhuttiwal, from Bhuttiwal village of Sangrur, added,“If I can’t be part of political front, I can at least help them. I feel a new front should be given a chance. If we can get the farm laws repealed, what if we can get our own government. Let’s give a chance to clean the political system.”

Joshi added, “During the protest, unemployed unions, teachers’ unions, and various other employees federations were in contact with us and they too are with us. So it is not only farmers, but also government employees, pensioners, unemployed youth who want a change in the system.”

However, Sandeep Kumar Jyani from Khaira Khurd village of Mansa has a different opinion.

Jyani, a farmer, said, “The ones who are attached with farmer unions in their organisational structure will go with the front but the ones who were attached with the struggle against farm laws voluntarily will vote the way they like. Already, one Gursewak Singh Sidhu of the front floated by BKU (Chaduni) is moving in the area and now this new front. What about the fight for MSP and other issues?”

sKrishan Kumar (40) from Mansa’s Kirandi village added, “It is a hasty decision. Joining in a lok lehar and voting for a political party are two different subjects. What if they don’t get enough votes? It seems that it is a first step for SKM to fall apart. Kisan union cadre can vote for them but as of now, all the unions are also not on the same page. Unions are giving a chance to political parties to raise fingers at them as earlier they were saying they have nothing to do with politics.”

Paramjeet Kaur from Ekolaha village of Khanna added, “Rajewal ji stays two villages away from my village in Khanna sub-division of Ludhiana district. My 75-year-old father, Zorawar Singh, went to Delhi borders with BKU (Rajewal). Earlier, he was at pakka dharnas in Punjab. However, he went missing after January 26 episode at Red Fort. I made repeated calls to Rajewal ji, went to Singhu border but I got no information. Rajewal didn’t contact me even once, never picked my phone calls. If every vote is important, what about me? My father went missing in this struggle and union remained indifferent to it throughout, hence now contesting polls seems as if unions are playing with emotions of the farmers who contributed money for the morcha and whose family members died at Delhi borders.”

Doubts also remain about the support the farmers’ political morcha will get.

Narpinder Singh, sarpanch of Shmashpur Singhan from Fatehgarh Sahib district, said, “When at the protest morcha, everyone was on one platform. Now in elections, people are free to choose their candidate. I can’t say whether the whole village will move in one direction like a wave as they did in protest against farm laws. “

Preet Pal Singh Brar, sarpanch of Bargari village of Faridkot district, said, “I think that the ones who are loyal to Congress will vote for Congress, same with SAD. The floating vote can now go anywhere. Normally this floating vote decides the government.”

Inder Sharma, general secretary of Kinnow Mandi Ahritya Association of Abohar, said, “Earlier everyone was attached with this struggle against farm laws but now, we are thinking as if it was done to build a vote bank. Villagers contributed for the morcha, contributions also went from urban areas. As many unions have decided to contest polls, struggle on farming issues will take a back seat. I find it a hasty decision.”

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