The Samyukt Kisan Morcha – the umbrella body of farmers unions that spearheaded the protest against the farm laws – will not contest the 2022 Punjab election, and no person or organisation should use its name, or that of its member groups, for poll purposes, the group said Saturday.
The SKM underlined the lack of consensus between 32 member groups regarding the election; those inclined to contest the election could ally with the Aam Aadmi Party, for whom party boss and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been actively courting farmers.
“The SKM – which is a platform of more than 400 different ideological organisations across the country, is formed only for the issues of farmers. There is no call for boycott of elections and even no understanding of contesting elections…” a statement from the nine-member coordination said.
The farmers’ group said it had been formed “by the people to get their rights from the government” and that following the repeal of the farm laws the struggle had been suspended.
“Remaining demands (this includes legal assurances for MSP, or minimum support price) will be decided in the meeting to be held on January 15, 2022,” the SKM said.
The SKM’s firm statement on not contesting the Punjab election comes after reports said a majority of the 32 member groups were in favour of contesting the polls.
Today the group clarified that at least nine members were opposed to standing in the election.
These nine are 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.
Punjab (and four other states, including UP) are due to hold elections in February-March.
Both states have significant farmer populations and their votes are being seen as key in deciding if the Congress (in power in Punjab) and the BJP (in power in UP) remain or go.
The farm laws – passed in September last year – triggered furious protests nationwide.
Last month, however, Prime Minister Narendra Modi – in a stunning announcement just three months before the UP and Punjab elections – said the three laws would be withdrawn.
The government’s surprising U-turn – after senior figures, including the Prime Minister, spent months verbally attacking the protesting farmers – raised questions from critics who pointed to the polls.
As part of the protest, thousands of farmers from Punjab and UP (as well as Haryana and Rajasthan) had camped on the Delhi borders since November last year. The BJP – in power at the centre and in UP, and hoping to oust the Congress from Punjab – faced massive anger from voters in these states.
The rollback was, therefore, seen as politically key, particularly with a general election due in 2024, and triggered speculation from critics and the opposition that the BJP might try to resuscitate the farm laws after this round of elections – assuming, of course, it has the political capital to do so.