Will peasant leaders sitting at the borders of the National Capital protesting the three farm laws soon jump into the poll bandwagon? The answer is not blowing in the winds, yet.
“No one here nurtures such ambition (of contesting elections) – that, I can tell you. There is no question of a rethink,” stated Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait.
The 52-year-old national spokesperson of BKU (Tikait) is currently leading a sit-in protest over the three farm laws at Ghazipur in the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border.
He, however, added that anyone intending to contest the forthcoming state assembly elections can do so as an individual. “Such a person will need to contest as an independent or as representative of a political party; not as a union leader,” he said.
Punjab and Uttar Pradesh are among the states going to polls in early 2022. The two, apart from Haryana, has the highest representation among protestors sitting at Delhi’s borders since November 26 last year.
The contentious laws are Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The protests are being held under the aegis of an umbrella organisation – the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM).
“SKM comprises at least 500 farmer organisatons from different parts of the country. It was formed to spearhead our common demands for repeal of anti-farmer bills like farm laws, the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020, amend environment laws and legislation of minimum support price (MSP) for crops,” added Hannan Mollah, general secretary, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS).
“A farmer union is not a political party. It can not prop up candidates on its own. Since the farm laws were introduced by the BJP-led government and it refuses to even consider our demands now, we will seek a mandate against it,” he added.
Hannan Mollah has been an eight-time Member of Parliament and is part of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Polit Bureau. He lost from Uluberia in Howrah district of West Bengal in the 2011 assembly election.
Speculations of a political debut were triggered following a video statement from Haryana farmer leader Gurnam Singh Charuni on July 6. He spoke about “Mission Punjab” wherein he hinted at contesting elections and form a “model government”.
According to him, “about 65% of the electorate are farmers and workers; now even urban voters will join them…” in favour of a farmers’ representative. He further stated that while “Mission UP” was intended to remove the BJP, in Punjab it meant taking power to set up a “model” for the country to follow.
Other leaders branded it as Charuni’s personal views.
“The slogan raised by SKM during the 2021 assembly elections was ‘Punish BJP, Defeat BJP’ and it will be the same this time,” said Hannan Mollah, adding: “there is no way that we’ll seek vote in favour of a particular party or candidate.”
Tikait also echoed the same, “We shall seek vote against BJP, we won’t support anyone in particular.”
He added that early September, a Mahapanchayat will be held in the Tikait’s stronghold of Muzaffarnagar where future plans will be chalked out.
On its part, the government has repeatedly asserted that the three agriculture laws would bring revolutionary changes in the lives of farmers. It has also been made clear that further negotiations will be held only if the farmer unions drop their demand of a repeal of these laws.
Eleven rounds of talks have already been held between the Union Government and protestors, the last being on January 22.