December 29, 2021 8:27:10 am
With the formation of Samyukta Samaj Morcha (SSM), a political front of around 21 farm unions of Punjab, not only the traditional political parties have been forced to recalculate their respective vote shares but the SSM too may have to look for a suitable pre-poll alliance. The front may dent the vote bank of a few traditional political parties on several assembly segments across the state, mainly in Malwa region, but at the same time political experts said that the SSM may go for a pre-poll alliance with any traditional party to increase its winnability.
The Indian Express explains how political experts are seeing its prospectus ahead of 2022 elections.
How big is the base of these 21 farm unions and in which areas are they active?
When SSM was formed, its leaders said that it is a front of 22 farm unions of which 19 were present when SSM was announced on Saturday while three were undecided whether to join SSM or not. Bharti Kisan Union (Dakuanda) in its meeting on Monday said that they won’t participate in the SSM but will also not oppose its leaders. Besides, BKU Lakhowal and Major Singh Poonawala of Kul Hind Sabha are yet to decide if they will contest the election or support SSM.
Of the 21 farm unions, around a dozen are Malwa-based and the remaining are from Doaba and Majha regions of the state. BKU Kadian is the largest union with around 70,000 members and is active mainly in the Malwa region, including Fatehgarh Sahib, Ludhiana. It is also active in Jalandhar district, which comes under the Doaba region. BKU Kadian was earlier a part of BKU Lakhowal and is just 4-5 years old.
Another major farm union is Balbir Singh Rajewal and Rajewal is the face of the SSM. The union has around 20,000 members across the state. BKU Doaba has a good reach in Doaba region’s four districts where there are 23 assembly segments and several sugarcane farmers are its members. This union has decided to support SSM but they will not contest the elections.
Majority of the remaining 18 of 21 unions of SSM, have their individual base in one or two or three districts. A farm expert said that they may face challenges in finding good candidates in several districts.
Some unions are inclined towards left parties and they always contest elections though they do not have any strong base but SSM has provided them an umbrella and this time they might fetch some more votes compared to the previous elections, said a political expert.
BKU (Ugrahan), the largest farm union of Punjab, will not be part of politics. The union is active in almost all districts and mainly in the Malwa region. It has almost one lakh members. Two other farm unions – BKU (Dakaunda) and Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee – are out of the political front. These are also mainly active in Malwa region. Nine other farm unions – including Kirti Kisan Union, Azaad Kisan Sangharsh Committee Punjab Jai Kisan Andolan, Bharti Kisan Union Krantikari, Bharti Kisan Union Ekta Sidhupur, Lok Bhalai Insaf Welfare Society, Ganna Sangharsh Committee, Dasuya, Azaad Kisan Committee Doaba and Krantikari Kisan Union (Darshan Pal) – have already opposed the idea of political front. All these unions have around 5000 to 10,000 members.
Which party’s vote bank can be dented?
Farmers are predominantly ‘Jat Sikh’, who have traditionally been the vote bank of the Akalis. In the 2017 elections, a sizeable section of Jat Sikh weaned away by AAP after getting disenchanted from SAD primarily as a fall out of Bargari sacrilege and drug issue. SAD is still facing these allegations and Congress, which also has Jat Singh supporters, is also facing the allegations of not punishing the drug lords and Bargadi culprits. “In such a situation, AAP was seen as a hope among the Jat Sikh voters but now it will have to be recalculated,” said an AAP leader, adding that even if the major farmer organisations are not part of SSM and also are against the formation of SSM, they may silently support SSM.
Moreover, such farm organisations are also not opposing them because being first timers there are no allegations against them and farmers in general also would see SSM as a farmers’ own party. For instance in Doaba region, Jalandhar Potato Growers Association, which has 5,000 potato growers as its members, has also supported SSM and they may ask tickets for their members. “If such farmer groups started supporting the SSM, the SSM can dent the vote bank of the traditional parties,” said a party leader.
What chance does SSM have if it chooses to give alliance a miss?
Sources in the SSM said that they may go with AAP because SSM leaders feel that it alone cannot win many seats but definitely can dent the prospect candidates of other parties. “This is a new party and no political party or even people have anything to say against it while all traditional parties are marred by some controversy and SSM can take advantage of the same. But all the farmers will not vote for SSM as it is a new party. An alliance with an already established party like AAP will be helpful,” said a senior SSM leader.
Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inbox