Twenty-two farm organisations in Punjab that were part of the protest against three central farm laws formed a political front on Saturday and announced they would contest the upcoming state assembly polls to give a "political change". The decision in this regard was taken by representatives of these organisations here.
These 22 farm bodies were among 32 farmer organisations in Punjab which participated in the over-a-year-long protest against the three central farm laws. However, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), which had led the farmers' stir against the laws, clarified it is not contesting the assembly elections and added that it has nothing to do with declaration by some farmers' organisations of Punjab to form a "Samyukt Samaj Morcha" for contesting the polls.
Talking to reporters here, farmer leader Harmeet Singh Kadian said the Samyukt Samaj Morcha has been set up for fighting the Punjab polls due early next year. The SKM was formed with various bodies having different ideologies and "We returned after fighting a battle after more than a year", he said while referring to the central laws which were repealed in the recently concluded Winter Session of Parliament. "The kind of welcome we received in Punjab and the expectations of the people from us has increased," said the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Kadian) leader.
"There is a lot of pressure from the cadre and others on us, and they said if you can win that 'morcha', then you could do something for the betterment of Punjab," Kadian said. "We are coming out with a new morcha, Samyukt Samaj Morcha," he said. Kadian claimed that three more farm bodies, including the BKU (Dakaunda) and the BKU (Lakhowal), have supported this decision but they are holding their own meetings. "On the call of the people of Punjab, we brought this 'morcha', which is ready to fight all the 117 (assembly) seats (in the state)," he said. "We also give an open invitation to other bodies to join us to build a new Punjab," Kadian said.
Balbir Singh Rajewal of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) will be the leader of the Samyukt Samaj Morcha, he said. Farmer leader Baldev Singh said the farmer bodies are entering politics while keeping in mind the expectations of the people. "We will give a new direction to Punjab," Singh said and added that problems and issues like illegal sand mining and drug menace were not being addressed by political outfits. "We assure the people of Punjab that they repose faith in us and we will work towards resolving their issues like curbing drug menace and stopping youth from going abroad," Singh said. Farmer leader Kulwant Singh Sandhu said, "We want to take Punjab to the top position."
On farmer bodies' decision of entering politics, Rajewal said there was a demand and "enormous pressure" from the people of Punjab. This decision has been taken to give a "political change", he said. The Samyukt Samaj Morcha will fight all the 117 assembly seats, Rajewal said. "There is a need to change the degraded system in the state," he said while appealing to the people not to fall prey to statements of traditional political parties.
Asked if the 'morcha' (Samyukt Samaj Morcha) will enter into an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party, which is the main opposition party in Punjab, Rajewal said no decision has yet been taken. This is not a political party but a 'morcha', said Kadian while dubbing it as "a new dawn". On the SKM deciding not to contest the assembly polls, Sandhu said the SKM comprised 475 organisations while Punjab had 32 farm bodies. He said they are not using the SKM's name for fighting the polls.
SKM leaders Darshan Pal and Jagjeet Singh Dallewal in a statement said the SKM, which is a platform of more than 400 different ideological organisations across the country, was formed only on the issues of farmers. There is no call for the boycott of elections and even no understanding of contesting elections, the SKM leaders said. "The SKM stands by its policy of not allowing any political party to use its banner or stage. Any attempt to use the name of SKM for elections will constitute a grave violation of Morcha's discipline," the statement said.
The forthcoming national meeting of the SKM is scheduled for January 15 and it shall take a final decision on whether farmer organisations and leaders, who take part in elections, can remain within the SKM," it said. The Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), which is one of the largest farm outfits in the state, has already announced not to participate in the polls.
Farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, started protesting at Delhi border points -- Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur -- on November 26 last year against the three farm laws. The laws were repealed by Parliament on November 29, but farmers continued their protest over their pending demands such as a committee for legal guarantee for MSP and withdrawal of police cases against farmers, among others. The protest was suspended on December 9 after the government agreed to fulfil the pending demands. The status of remaining demands will be decided in a meeting on January 15, the SKM leaders said in the statement.
Regarding the 32 organisations in Punjab, they said that there was no consensus on going jointly in this assembly election. Out of the 32 farm bodies, Krantikari Kisan Union, BKU Krantikari, BKU Sidhupur, Azad Kisan Committee Doaba, Jai Kisan Andolan, Dasuha Ganna Sangharsh Committee, Kisan Sangharsh Committee Punjab, Lok Bhalai Insaaf Welfare Society and Kirti Kisan Union Punjab have taken a stand against contesting elections.
-With PTI Inputs