How Farmers’ Organisations Are Approaching The Upcoming Elections In Punjab?

A very significant polarisation has taken place between farmer’s organisations from the Samyukta Morcha on issue of stand in state elections in Punjab. A big chunk are towing the parliamentary path and contesting the polls. However a significant contingent is not participating in the polls or supporting parliamentary candidates

The most progressive stand has been adopted by the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) which neither contests nor gives call for ‘boycott. BKU (Ugrahan)  left no stone unturned in confronting any trend that made the platform turn into a forum of the ruling class parties and under no condition would support any candidate. I suggest everyone carefully read its statement which gives the cutting edge of revolutionary democratic politics on elections.

Pavel Kussa of BKU (Ugrahan ) spoke to me about how many of the organisations were treading their old line. Rajewal group who supported Sikh politics or  even Kirti Kisan Union who would support candidates for New Democracy group. The Bharatiya Kisan Union (Krantikari) is giving slogan of ‘Boycott’ without people’s readiness or preparedness for it. It even issued a most clear cut stand towards the state elections, demarcating from capitulationist politics and sharpening democratic revolutionary line.

Very soon the democratic movement of Punjab will face what is possibly the most crucial state election ever, to give a jolt to Communal fascism and monopoly of the corporates. A sustained campaign has to be launched to explain the farmers the reformist or capitulationist nature of the programme of the Opposition parties who offer no genuine democratic alternative. It is my dear wish that history repeats itself of the successful election campaigns of organisations like Ugrahan and maximum forces are channelized to direct the framers towards building their genuine alternative democratic power. I expect the strongest united front ever in Punjab in the coming elections, in this regard. Never has a situation been as turbulent in Punjab before an election as now, with light of the recent agitation. Very important that the cutting edge of revolutionary class struggle is not lost, to preserve democratic character of broad based movement.

Opportunist electoral Trend (From Tribune reports)

As many as 22 farmer unions of Punjab, which were part of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) that led the struggle against the three central farm laws, have joined hands to form the Samyukt Samaj Morcha (SSM) to contest the upcoming Assembly elections.

The BKU(Rajewal) is the chief proponent of becoming part and parcel of electoral politics. It does not distinguish revolutionary democratic path from the ruling class one. It is regretful that many farmesr are still lured by the promise of parliamentary parties and do not understand the cutting edge of the revolutionary democratic road. Many have illusions of the parliamentary system and place faith in govt.promises.

The morcha leaders after a meeting, which lasted several hours, announced their decision to contest the elections on all 117 Assembly segments under the leadership of BKU (Rajewal) president Balbir Singh Rajewal.

Though the leaders claimed they would not join hands with any other party, sources amongst the farmer leaders as well as the Aam Aadmi Party confirmed to The Tribune an alliance is in the works. A meeting of some prominent leaders of the SSM and a prominent Delhi-based AAP leader was held late last night. Sources say a common minimum programme is being worked out between the two sides, before the alliance is formally announced.

Meanwhile, of the 22 unions that claimed to be part of the alliance, leaders of only 19 unions were present today’s meeting. Three unions that the SSM claimed to be party to the decision — BKU (Dakaunda), BKU (Lakhowal) and BKU (Major Punawal) — were not present at the meeting.

Harmeet Singh Qadian, general secretary, BKU (Qadian), said the SKM was formed to get the three central farm laws repealed. “After these were repealed, there was overwhelming public pressure to throw our hat in the political arena and provide people an alternative political platform that would deal with issues such as drug trafficking, illegal mining, etc. Thus we have launched the SSM,” he said, adding they would represent every section of society.

Rajewal said he would urge like-minded people to come together for a brighter future of Punjab. “We urge you to part your ways with parties that have looted the state and its people,” he added.

Of the 32 unions part of the SKM, nine — Krantikari Kisan Union (Dr Darshan Pal), BKU Krantikari (Surjit Phool), BKU Sidhupur (Jagjit Dallewal), Azad Kisan Committee Doaba (Harpal Sangha), Jai Kisan Andolan (Gurbakhsh Barnala), Dasuha Ganna Sangharsh Committee (Sukhpal Daffar), Kisan Sangharsh Committee Punjab (Inderjit Kotbudha), Lok Bhalai Insaaf Welfare Society (Baldev Sirsa) and Kirti Kisan Union Punjab (Hardev Sandhu) — have refused to be part of the political front.

Pavel Kussa of BKU(Ugrahan ) spoke to me how about the organisations which were treading their old line like Rajewal group who supported Sikh politics or  even Kirti Kisan Union who would support candidates for New Democracy group,

Of the 22 unions that have formed the political outfit, leaders of only 19 attended Saturday’s meeting. Three unions that the SSM claimed to be party to the decision — BKU (Dakaunda), BKU (Lakhowal) and BKU (Major Punawal) — were not present. Of the 32 unions part of the SKM, nine have already refused to be part of the political front, while there is no clarity on the 10th.

Correct Orientation on Elections

Of the 32 unions part of the SKM, nine — Krantikari Kisan Union (Dr Darshan Pal), BKU Krantikari (Surjit Phool), BKU Sidhupur (Jagjit Dallewal), Azad Kisan Committee Doaba (Harpal Sangha), Jai Kisan Andolan (Gurbakhsh Barnala), Dasuha Ganna Sangharsh Committee (Sukhpal Daffar), Kisan Sangharsh Committee Punjab (Inderjit Kotbudha), Lok Bhalai Insaaf Welfare Society (Baldev Sirsa) and Kirti Kisan Union Punjab (Hardev Sandhu) — have refused to be part of the political front.

The BKU (Ugrahan) said their battle was also only half-won, with major demands like statutory guarantee for MSP and loan waiver pending.

While it would not participate in the polls or announce support for any party, it did not mean a boycott of the elections, the BKU (Ugrahan) clarified. Its stand towards the organisations participating in the polls would depend on the position they took on farmer issues, it said.

“We consider the present electoral politics as a derailing and misleading activity… and therefore a call will be issued to maintain unity,” the leaders said, in a joint statement. They added that the decision to jump into politics had been taken by the 22 unions at their individual level and had nothing to do with the SKM.

The BKU (Darshan Pal), that is also staying out of the political front, said it would ask the people to pressurise farmer leaders to concentrate on the “andolan (struggle)” and not get caught up in politics. Darshan Pal also hit out at the new front, saying some “small” farmer organisations were drooling over “power” and aspiring to become ministers and MLAs. While participating in elections was “not a crime”, Darshan Pal said, “certainly we will not support them at all if they do alliance with any political party”.

Rajinder Singh Deepsinghwala, general secretary of the Kirti Kisan Union, said: “We will decide on December 31 about what to do next, whether to support this new morcha or not. The picture will be clear once they float their agendas.”

Jagmohan Singh Dakaunda, the general secretary of the BKU (Dakaunda), said they would also meet to decide their stand on the new political front.

The Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC), a farmer union from Majha, which is also staying away, said: “Our union has very clearly stated that if anyone wants to contest the polls, they need to resign from the KMSC. We will not be supporting any front as well. In the past, such attempts by farmer union leaders haven’t yielded good results.”

BKU (Ugrahan) statement on Elections

I suggest everyone carefully read this statement which gives the cutting edge of revolutionary democratic politics on elections.

Bharti Kisan Union ( BKU EKTA UGRAHAN ) issues a clarion call to continue the struggle on the burning issues of Farmers. Chandigarh ( 25 December) Reacting to the issue of some farmers unions of Punjab on their decision to contest the coming elections , Bharti Kisan Union ( BKU EKTA UGRAHAN ) stated that struggling farmer unions instead of getting entangled in the vote politics of the rulers the farmer unions should concentrate on the farmers issues. State President Joginder Singh Ugrahan and the General Secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kala of the organisation said that the farmers ‘struggle against the farm laws has also proved that the rights and interests of farmers cannot be saved and ensured by sitting in the Parliament or Assemblies rather the same can be achieved only by struggle in the open at mass and community level. The leaders said that still only three farm laws have been repealed whereas the major issues like the MSP and total loan waiver are pending and are yet to be resolved . For solution of these problems farmers should always rely upon the mass struggles. There are many big challenges before the kisan movement and kisan leaders should concentrate their all energies on the broad basing and strengthening their struggles to face and resolve these challenges. The leader stated that the stand of their organization is very clear that they neither shall participate in elections nor shall support any party. They have not issued any call for boycott of elections either. We consider the present electoral politics as a derailing and misleading activity for the people and therefore call shall be issued to maintain their unity . Besides this along with the issues of farmers , the issues of toiling masses and the basic issues shall be made a focus. And for the resolution of these issues call shall be issued to the masses to rely upon the struggles. They also clarified that they shall always make efforts to keep and maintain the farmers’ Unity. They also clarified that the attitude towards the organizations participating in the elections, shall also be decided on the basis of their approach towards the resolution of the problems and protection of the interests of the farmers practically. They said that the position and stand of the Nationwide Sanyukat Kisan Morcha that emerged in the struggle against farm laws , is that SKM shall not participate in elections in any manner whatsoever. Therefore the decision of the farmers organizations to participate n elections is the decision of those organizations individually and it has nothing to do with the Sanyukat Kisan Morcha. Kisan leaders informed that for the implementation of the demands conceded by Punjab Government and for getting accepted other burning issues like loan waiver , Organisation is holding day and night pakka morchas ( permanent sittings) in front of the DC or SDM offices in 15 districts of the state .

Sustained agitation from December 20 to 24th.(Information from Indian Express and Tribune news)

Amid discussions of future plans by other farmer groups, the largest farmer union of Punjab BKU Ugrahan from Friday undertook protests in front of all Deputy Commissioner (DC) offices from December 20 to 24 for their pending demands. It was most commendable considering the farmers were tired out to the very brim after the protest at Tikri-Sangur border. It was a most illustrative expression of the potential of the farmers to challenge the rulers at their hardest point, displaying death defying courage in the most adverse conditions. It has carved a genuine platform and boosted morale of revolutionary democratic forces to challenge ruling class parties in coming state elections. Around 60000 farmers have participated in 15 districts with mobilisation ranging from 5000-10000 according to Pavel Kussa, shimmering the intensity of a tornado.

To participate in the five-day protest in front of DC offices, farmers under the banner of the BKU Ugrahan came prepared to wage a sustained battle against the state government, and continue the very path where they  left off  at  Tikri and Singhu borders against the farm laws.They equipped their tractor-trailers with all essential commodities and special committees of villages are again back to work to mobilise support and ensure supply of milk and other items at the protest site.

BKU Ugrahan leaders say since elections are approaching fast, they do not want to waste time by discussing their future course of action about any political activity and want to push their energy to pressurise government for quick action for the demands of farmers.

The BKU Ugrahan organised dharnas outside DC offices of Ludhiana, Moga, Barnala, Ferozepur, Fazilka, Muktsar, Sangrur, Bathinda and Mansa districts. In Barnala, Harinder Kaur Bindu, vice-president of the party, addressed the protesters.

Members of various committees deputised to ensure the supply of milk and other essential commodities from villages. Langar of tea and food were stalled  .

Their main demands include Rs 17,000 per acre financial aid to farmers, who have suffered crop losses and its 10 per cent payment to labourers, guarantee of Rs 360 per quintal of sugarcane from each sugar mill, Rs 3 lakh financial aid to families of labourers and farmers, who have died by suicide and complete debt waiver to them and a government job, cancellation of FIRs registered against protesting farmers, Rs 5 lakh financial aid to farmers and labourers, who died during New Delhi agitation and a government job to their families and quick release of tubewell connections to farmers.

“The farmers are already in agitation mode and they have only taken a rest of few days. We have decided our agitation plan as per the demand of farmers,” said Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, general secretary of BKU (Ugrahan). Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, , said, “The cotton belt of Malwa Punjab was hit by pink bollworm disease and (Charanjit Singh) Channi government had announced Rs 17,000 per acre compensation for farmers and 10% of the total announced compensation to farm labourers. However, till now this compensation has not even been disbursed to all the farmers, what to talk of farm labourers.

Cotton crop got damaged in September, announcement of compensation was made in mid-October and still disbursement has not been done fully.” Recently, CM Channi was at Mansa and he himself had stated that Rs 12,000 per acre compensation has been disbursed while the remaining amount will be disbursed soon. The other demands are Rs 3 lakh compensation to families where farmers committed suicides while all the farmers’ families have not been given Rs 5 lakh compensation each for the death of someone related to him at Delhi borders. Over 650 had died at Delhi borders but so far compensation and jobs have been given to nearly 450 only.

The other demands include registration of an FIR against police officials, who allegedly cane-charged protesting unemployed teachers during the Mansa rally of Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi some days back, rollback of hike in toll plaza charges and adequate supply of Urea.

While BKU (Ugrahan) had suspended stage activity on Thursday in Ludhiana due to bomb blast, the activities continued in rest of the districts. On Friday, dharna was back to normal in Ludhiana too.

Saudagar Singh Ghudani, president of BKU (Ugrahan), Ludhiana district, said, “Though Charanjit Cheeni  has agreed to accept our five demands but we are waiting till December 30 for their implementation. Till then dharnas will continue.”

Despite Punjab being on high alert following the Ludhiana blast, the protests by farmers in the state continued unabated Friday. Farmers did not halt their ongoing protests outside DC offices of 13 districts of Punjab, and two SDM offices. Apart from these protests by BKU (Ugrahan), the rail roko by Kisan Mazdoor Sangrash Committee at 6 sites in Punjab also continued leading to 122 trains being affected Friday.

farmers 3

The rail roko by KMSC took place  at Devidaspura village in Amritsar, Tarn Taran railway station, Tanda in Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar Cantt, Moga and Fazilka railway stations and at Basti Tenka Wali in Ferozepur district. As per the information provided by divisional railway manager (DRM), Ferozepur, on December 24 a total of 89 trains got fully cancelled out of which 45 were mail express and 44 were passenger trains while 14 were short terminated and another 19 were short originated.

The rail roko started from two points at Devidaspura and Tanda December 20 and other sites were added later. On Friday, rail roko started at sixth site in Jalandhar Cantt area.DRM, Ferozepur division, revealed that since December 20, on an average about 100 trains were being affected on daily basis. So far, over 500 trains have been affected since December 20.

Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.Toured India, particularly Punjab

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