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Punjab: Chaduni launches party, 32 farm unions meet to talk polls

🔴 The BKU (Ugrahan), the largest of the unions, stayed away, as it had announced earlier, saying it wanted to focus on farmer issues and did not want anything to do with politics.

Written by Sukhbir Siwach , Raakhi Jagga | Chandigarh, Ludhiana |
Updated: December 19, 2021 11:59:22 am
Gurnam Singh Chaduni, Punjab Assembly elections, Sanyukt Sangharsh Party, BKU (Ugrahan), farmers issues, Punjab news, Chandigarh city news, Chandigarh, India news, Indian Express News Service, Express News Service, Express News, Indian Express India NewsFarm leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni (centre) with supporters in Chandigarh, Saturday. (Kamleshwar Singh)

Haryana-based farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni on Saturday launched his own political party, announcing that he would contest all the 117 seats in the Punjab Assembly elections.

One of the most prominent faces in the farmer agitation that went on for a year, Chaduni promised that his Sanyukt Sangharsh Party would be “secular”, and work for all sections of society, unlike current political leaders whom he accused of “framing policies in favour of capitalists”.

Soon after Chaduni’s announcement, Punjab’s 32 farmer unions held a meeting to discuss participation in the polls, but could not reach a decision. The BKU (Ugrahan), the largest of the unions, stayed away, as it had announced earlier, saying it wanted to focus on farmer issues and did not want anything to do with politics.

The leader of the BKU (Chaduni) and a member of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) which spearheaded the farmers’ agitation, Chaduni has been asking farmer unions in Punjab to fight the polls. To a query on Saturday, he said he himself would not be contesting, nor would he align with any party.

The Punjab farmer unions held their meeting at Mullanpur in Ludhiana. Discussions were held on whether they should form a joint political front, or separate outfits, extend support to a party, or steer clear of politics and continue to play their role as farmer organisations.

However, the talks remained inconclusive, reflecting the divergent views among the unions. Buta Singh Burjgill, president of the BKU (Dakaunda), said they would meet again after December 20 to decide.
Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of the BKU (Rajewal) and a prominent SKM face, denied rumours that he had been approached by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). On a visit to meet the Shahi Imam of Ludhiana’s Jama Masjid Saturday, Rajewal refused to comment on Chaduni’s party or on what the farmer unions would decide. “I came here to thank Shahi Imam and the entire Muslim community for supporting the kisan andolan (agitation),” he said.

Prem Singh Bhangu, president of the All India Kisan Mahasabha Federation (Punjab), said they expect Chaduni to join them if they float a political party. “Let him act how he wants. We will have detailed discussions,” he said, adding that the unions wanted to remain a pressure group to keep a check on the government.

Rajinder Singh Deepsinghwala, general secretary of the Kirti Kisan Union, said the way in which the Modi government had pushed through the farm laws and how the farmers had got it to repeal them, had strengthened their resolve.

Harmeet Singh Kadian, president of the BKU (Kadian), said they were under pressure from the people. “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.”

The general secretary of the BKU (Lakhowal), Harinder Singh Lakhowal, said they would abide by the SKM’s decision. The BKU (Lakhowal) has been associated with the Akali Dal in the past, and is reportedly being approached by political parties.

The BKU (Ugrahan), which stayed away from the meeting, said it was clear that it would “not be part of any political system”. Leader Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan told The Sunday Express: “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.”

Chaduni said he expects at least nine farmer outfits of Punjab to support his plans to join politics. At the launch in Chandigarh Saturday, several activists from Punjab and Dalit leader Kanta Alhariya from Haryana were present.

Earlier, an industrialists’ body from Punjab had announced a new party with Chaduni as its chief ministerial face. The BJP and ally JJP have earlier accused Chaduni of “doing politics”. “He wants to become another Arvind Kejriwal through the agitation,” Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij says.

Chaduni said he was “neither a CM face nor would contest polls in Punjab”. “I stand by my ideology that farmers and mazdoor (labourers) should contest polls.”

While farming was his party’s main agenda, he added, it was for everyone — “mazdoor (labourers), farmers, rehriwalas (vendors), employees or traders”.

Chaduni said his party would seek that licences be issued in Punjab, on the lines of Rajasthan, to allow opium farming. “It is very profitable for farmers… at a time when farming is running into losses,” he said, adding that it would also check the migration of youths from the state by providing employment.went on for a year, Chaduni promised that his Sanyukt Sangharsh Party would be “secular”, and work for all sections of society, unlike current political leaders whom he accused of “framing policies in favour of capitalists”.

Soon after Chaduni’s announcement, Punjab’s 32 farmer unions held a meeting to discuss participation in the polls, but could not reach a decision. The BKU (Ugrahan), the largest of the unions, stayed away, as it had announced earlier, saying it wanted to focus on farmer issues and did not want anything to do with politics.

The leader of the BKU (Chaduni) and a member of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) which spearheaded the farmers’ agitation, Chaduni has been asking farmer unions in Punjab to fight the polls. To a query on Saturday, he said he himself would not be contesting, nor would he align with any party.

The Punjab farmer unions held their meeting at Mullanpur in Ludhiana. Discussions were held on whether they should form a joint political front, or separate outfits, extend support to a party, or steer clear of politics and continue to play their role as farmer organisations.

However, the talks remained inconclusive, reflecting the divergent views among the unions. Buta Singh Burjgill, president of the BKU (Dakaunda), said they would meet again after December 20 to decide.
Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of the BKU (Rajewal) and a prominent SKM face, denied rumours that he had been approached by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). On a visit to meet the Shahi Imam of Ludhiana’s Jama Masjid Saturday, Rajewal refused to comment on Chaduni’s party or on what the farmer unions would decide. “I came here to thank Shahi Imam and the entire Muslim community for supporting the kisan andolan (agitation),” he said.

Prem Singh Bhangu, president of the All India Kisan Mahasabha Federation (Punjab), said they expect Chaduni to join them if they float a political party. “Let him act how he wants. We will have detailed discussions,” he said, adding that the unions wanted to remain a pressure group to keep a check on the government.

Rajinder Singh Deepsinghwala, general secretary of the Kirti Kisan Union, said the way in which the Modi government had pushed through the farm laws and how the farmers had got it to repeal them, had strengthened their resolve.

Harmeet Singh Kadian, president of the BKU (Kadian), said they were under pressure from the people. “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.”

The general secretary of the BKU (Lakhowal), Harinder Singh Lakhowal, said they would abide by the SKM’s decision. The BKU (Lakhowal) has been associated with the Akali Dal in the past, and is reportedly being approached by political parties.

The BKU (Ugrahan), which stayed away from the meeting, said it was clear that it would “not be part of any political system”. Leader Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan told The Sunday Express: “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.”

Chaduni said he expects at least nine farmer outfits of Punjab to support his plans to join politics. At the launch in Chandigarh Saturday, several activists from Punjab and Dalit leader Kanta Alhariya from Haryana were present.

Earlier, an industrialists’ body from Punjab had announced a new party with Chaduni as its chief ministerial face. The BJP and ally JJP have earlier accused Chaduni of “doing politics”. “He wants to become another Arvind Kejriwal through the agitation,” Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij says.
Chaduni said he was “neither a CM face nor would contest polls in Punjab”. “I stand by my ideology that farmers and mazdoor (labourers) should contest polls.”

While farming was his party’s main agenda, he added, it was for everyone — “mazdoor (labourers), farmers, rehriwalas (vendors), employees or traders”.

Chaduni said his party would seek that licences be issued in Punjab, on the lines of Rajasthan, to allow opium farming. “It is very profitable for farmers… at a time when farming is running into losses,” he said, adding that it would also check the migration of youths from the state by providing employment.

Explained: To fight or not to fight
While now repealed, the farm laws and the long protest over them are set to dominate the coming Punjab Assembly elections. At this time, the entry of the farm unions that spearheaded the protests in the race will upset poll calculations of parties.

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