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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Suspend poll campaign till EC announces date, support our agitation, farmer bodies urge Punjab political parties

The appeal by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha came when, in a historic first, representatives of political parties in Punjab lined up to have meeting with them ahead of the assembly elections in the state early next year.

Written by Navjeevan Gopal | Chandigarh |
Updated: September 10, 2021 10:14:19 pm
Samyukt Kisan Morcha is an umbrella body of 32 farmer unions spearheading the protest against the agri laws at Delhi borders for past nearly 10 months. (Express Photo by Gurmeet Singh)

The political parties in Punjab must stop their poll campaign till Election Commission of India (ECI) announces the poll schedule and rather focus on extending support to the ongoing agitation against the “three black farm laws” enacted by the Centre, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha on Friday said.

The appeal by the SKM, an umbrella body of 32 farmer unions spearheading the protest against the agri laws at Delhi borders for past nearly 10 months, came when, in a historic first, representatives of political parties in Punjab lined up to have meeting with them ahead of the assembly elections in the state early next year.

The representatives of all political parties extended support to the ongoing support to anti-farm law protests with state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu saying it was “pag di gal (about dignity of farmer’s turban), Shiromani Akali Dal offering to join the protest at Singhu and Tkiri, and Aam Aadmi Party promising no such activity that would in any way weaken the farm agitation.

The three parties also raised concern that the way farm protests were taking place in Punjab, the BJP may use it as ploy to get the central government to impose President’s rule in the poll-bound state.

The Bharatiya Janta Party and Shiromani Akali Dal (Mann) led by former IPS officer Simranjit Singh Mann did not attend the meeting.

Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) president Balbir Singh Rajewal, who presided over the meeting, later said Congress and Akali Dal representatives have assured they will consult their respective party leadership on the SKM rider to stop the poll before announcing their decision.

Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) president Balbir Singh Rajewal. (Express photo by Uma Vishnu)

Satnam Singh Ajnala, chief of Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, termed the meeting as a historic first. “Earlier, farm unions used to meet political parties. Today, representatives of political parties lined up to meet the farm unions,” he told reporters after the nearly five-hour-long meeting.

Rajewal said that at a time when the focus was on farm agitation, some political parties have started the poll campaign, at least 10 months ahead of elections and that was leading to “untoward incidents”.

“When parties conduct electioneering and mobilise supporters for their programmes, it diverts the farmers’ attention,” Rajewal said, adding that political parties can start poll campaign five to 10 days after ECI announces election schedule so that “peace and communal harmony” was maintained.

“We appeal to parties that electioneering should not be held before the polls are announced. The party, which will still insist on running an election campaign before poll dates are announced, will be considered as anti-farmer,” the farmer leader added

Rajewal said the protesting farmers have been asked not to disrupt political leaders going for social functions and added that government should restrict gatherings at functions for distributing cheques and benefits of welfare schemes.

Congress MLA Pargat Singh. (File)

He also said that election manifesto should be made a legally binding document to ensure that pre-poll promises were fulfilled.

Congress MLA Pargat Singh, who was in the party panel led by Sidhu, too batted for making election manifesto a legal document but underlined that that it was only possible if a law to that effect was enacted by the Centre.

Pargat added that he offered that “farm unions may guide us and even become politically active because the democratic process to reach out to people should not stop”.

The Jalandhar Cantt MLA said that he told the farm representatives that as politicians they had to reach out to the people. Pargat said he also cautioned against “BJP trap” to impose President’s rule in Punjab.

Sidhu was learnt to have offered full support to the farm agitation. Sidhu also said that he was for “increasing farm income”.

In a tweet after the meeting, Sidhu said, “Had a positive meeting with Samyukt Kisan Morcha … Discussed the way forward !!”

Senior Akali leader Maheshinder Singh Grewal, who was among four-member party panel which met the farm unions, said, “The SKM leadership told us that they want our political rallies to be postponed saying these were too early.”

Grewal added that Akali leaders pointed out the party’s stand on “black farm laws” and underlined that “Harsimrat Kaur Badal, in an unprecedented manner, resigned from the Union cabinet, Akali Dal broke alliance with BJP, and the party spoke against the laws in the parliament.”

His colleague Daljit Singh Cheema was learnt to have told SKM representatives that apart from raising the issue of “three black farm laws”, the Akali Dal, as a political party, also needed to raise issues concerning other sections of the society and hence needed to be politically active. Akali Dal also offered that its activists and volunteers can join the farm agitation at Singhu and Tikri borders of Delhi on the asking of SKM.

The Akali Dal too raised concern that the way things were unfolding, Centre may impose President’s rule in Punjab.

From AAP, party legislator Kultar Singh Sandhawan, said, “We made it clear that AAP was indulging in no activity which weakened the farm agitation. We pointed out that AAP government in Delhi brought a resolution against the black farm laws in Delhi Assembly. We assured the SKM leadership that AAP Punjab will do no activity which would go against the farm agitation. At the same time, we pointed out that yardstick should be same for all the political parties in the state.”

Sandhawan added that AAP delegation also cautioned SKM leadership on “BJP conspiracy to impose President’s rule in Punjab”.

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