The Haryana-based Bharatiya Kisan Union (Chaduni) president Gurnam Singh Chaduni may have floated his own political party, but Punjab’s 32 farmer unions continue to debate whether to take a political plunge or not, even as the Punjab Assembly elections are barely a couple of months away.
The 32 unions along with BKU Ugrahan are part of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella group of over 40 farm unions, which spearhead a year-long successful protest against the BJP-led Centre’s three agriculture laws on Delhi’s borders that recently ended after these laws were repealed.
A week after their return to Punjab, the 32 unions held a meeting at Mullanpur in Ludhiana district Saturday to deliberate on, among other things, political matters such as whether they should form a joint political front, float their own political outfits, extend support to any mainstream political party, or steer clear of politics and continue to play their role as farmer organisations.
The meeting however remained inconclusive, reflecting divergent views of different farmer unions on these matters. After the meeting, Buta Singh Burjgill, president of BKU Dakaunda, said: “We discussed the issue of political party formation by Gurnam Singh Chaduni and whether Punjab’s farmer organisations should form any political outfit or not. But we couldn’t arrive at any decision. We will be meeting again after December 20.”
Earlier, the BKU Ugrahan, the largest farmer union of Punjab, which stayed away from this meeting, made it clear 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 The Indian Express, “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. Had a joint forum of farmers not been made, farm laws couldn’t have been repealed.”
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.”
Jagmohan Singh Dakaunda, general secretary of the BKU Dakaunda, said, “The issue of supporting a political party or floating our own party is being discussed, but we haven’t arrived at any conclusion as of now.”
It is learnt that Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of the BKU Rajewal and a prominent SKM face, has already been approached by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), although he denied it.
On Saturday, Rajewal had come to meet Shahi Imam of Ludhiana’s Jama Masjid, Usman Ludhianvi. He refused to comment on Chaduni’s bid to float a political party and whether 32 farmer unions would follow suit. He also refrained from commenting on whether he would contest the upcoming Punjab polls. “I came here to thank Shahi Imam and the entire Muslim community for supporting Kisan andolan (agitation) all along.”
Prem Singh Bhangu, president of the All India Kisan Mahasabha Federation (Punjab), said ,”We are discussing whether to float a political party or to support any particular party. If we float any political group, Chaduni will also have to be part of us…Let him act in his way. We all will have detailed discussions and don’t want to be in any hurry.” He added that “All the unions will give their opinions as we do feel that a pressure group should remain to check the government.”
Rajinder Singh Deepsinghwala, general secretary of the Kirti Kisan Union, said, “We are indeed discussing these issues in our meetings now, but, personally, I feel that we should remain as a pressure group to check the government. The BJP government has absolute majority in Parliament, but despite that we were able to get the farm laws repealed as the movement was led by apolitical farmer unions. If we are part of the same political system, will we be able to do justice to the farmers or raise farmer issues effectively? This is a matter of debate. So, let’s see what conclusion we reach.”
Speaking on the issue, Harmeet Singh Kadian, president of the BKU Kadian, said, “We don’t want to be part of the political system but we are getting messages from masses that we should be part of the same system if we want to improve the condition of peasantry. Let’s see what unions decide.”
BKU Lakhowal general secretary Harinder Singh Lakhowal said, “Whatever SKM decides on the issue, we will abide by it. I can’t give my individual opinion on it as of now.” The BKU Lakhowal had been associated with the Akali Dal in the past.
Sources said Rajewal is being approached by political parties, even as he has not revealed his plans so far.