Renegade leaders Yashwant Sinha, Shatrughan Sinha and Pravin Togadia are set to join the farmers' agitation in Mandsaur on Friday, two days after Congress President Rahul Gandhi's visit to the district in Madhya Pradesh where seven farmers were killed in police firing last year.
BJP leaders Yashwant and Shatrughan and former VHP chief Togadia will join the 10-day 'Gaon Bandh' spearheaded by Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Mahasangh (RKMM) against the alleged anti-farmer policies of the Modi government.
More than 130 farmer organisations have been protesting since June 1 by blocking supply of vegetables and milk to cities, insisting that the city folk purchase their greens directly from farmers by visiting nearby villages.
The farmer outfits are demanding remunerative prices for their produce, implementation of the Swaminathan Commission report and farm loan waivers, among other demands.
The farmers' leaders were keen to hold the condolence meeting in Mandsaur on June 6, the first anniversary of the police firing in which seven farmers were killed. However, Rahul Gandhi had already announced his programme for Wednesday and the leaders led by RKMM's Shiv Kumar Sharma alias 'Kakkaji' were not keen to be seen alongside a political party.
Top RKMM leaders held a meeting here to chart out their future course of action. Sharma told reporters that farmers will distribute milk free of cost at all district hospitals on Thursday.
On Thursday, the farmer outfits plan to meet district administration officers in their regions and submit a memorandum of demands addressed to the President. They will also gift the officers milk and fresh vegetables.
Sharma said farmers will observe a day-long hunger strike on Saturday and 'Bharat Bandh' on Sunday.
Sharma, who has been carrying out farmers' agitations in Madhya Pradesh for more than a decade, dismissed reports that there was division among farmer organisations. "These are desperate attempts made by the government to puncture the agitation. We all are united," he said, adding that only the nature of the agitation has changed in Punjab.
Sharma also rejected allegations by the BJP that the RKMM was a front of the Congress.