Key figures of farmer protests set for political plunge

From protests to politics: Key figures of the farmers' agitation set to enter fray in Punjab

The move by farmers is likely to split the votes among the major political parties in the state

A view of the farmers' protest at Delhi border earlier this year. Credit: PTI File Photo

Following successful protests at Delhi borders to repeal the farm laws, farmers are now turning their attention to contesting the upcoming Punjab Assembly elections in 2022. 

In the forefront is 78-year-old Balbir Singh Rajewal, who emerged as a prominent face during the farmers' agitation and will be the face of the front. Addressing the media after a meeting, Rajewal and farmer leaders Harmeet Singh Qadian and Kulwant Singh Sandhu said that at least three more farmers' organisations might join them.

“This was a demand of the people of the state, who said that we had emerged victorious in the farmers’ agitation and should fight on the political front also,” Qadian said. 

The farmers said that they were just leading the front and that they were counting on the people of the state as their major strength.

Even as this is likely to split the vote share of major political parties, especially of the Akali Dal — that counts farmers among its major support base — 32 member bodies of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), the umbrella body, did not sign up for politics.

The largest farmers’ union, BKU (Ugrahan), along with other organisations associated with Leftist leanings, have majorly stayed away, according to a report by The Indian Express.
However, 22 farmers' organisations are set to contest all 117 seats in the upcoming elections under the banner of Samyukta Samaj Morcha (SSM). 

According to another report by The Indian Express, Rajewal’s outfit BKU (Rajewal) grew rapidly in popularity during the recently concluded agitation even as he has been a farm union leader in Punjab since the 1970s.

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He has been participating in agitations pertaining to farm laws since his association with the Punjab Kheti-Badi Union in the early 1970s. He was with the BKU (Lakhowal) from 1974 to 1988 and then shifted to the BKU (Mann). Subsequently, in 2001, he floated his own outfit, the report stated.

“In 1974, a big farmer movement was launched when restrictions were put on farmers for selling their wheat outside the state and then farmers launched an agitation defying the zonal restrictions on the movement of wheat. Rajewal was also a part of that and even went to jail,” Onkar Singh Augar, general secretary, BKU (Rajewal), told the publication.
Augar has been with Rajewal for the past three decades.

The BKU (Rajewal), which was not well organised, has become more streamlined over the past year since the launch of the agitation against the farm laws and is currently among the leading farmer bodies in Punjab.

Also Read — 22 farm bodies in Punjab announce political front, to contest upcoming state polls

Even as farmer leaders said that there was no decision on partnering with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), sources said that talks were underway, according to the publication.

According to SSM leaders, BKU (Dakaunda), BKU (Lakhowal) and BKU (Major Singh Poonewala) are likely to join the party for polls. They attributed the delay for them to amend their constitution, which does not allow for politics, to make the jump.

The general secretary of the BKU (Dakaunda), Jagmohan Singh Dakaunda, told The Indian Express that they would hold a meeting on December 27 on whether to support the SSM.

According to the report, BKU (Darshan Pal), BKU (Krantikari), BKU (Sidhupur), Azad Kisan Committee (Doaba), Jai Kisan Andolan, Dasuya Ganna Sangharsh Committee, Kisan Sangharsh Committee, Lok Bhalai Insaf Welfare Society, and Kirti Kisan Union were opposed to the move into politics.

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