Facing stiff opposition to the farm Bills from protesting Punjab farmers ahead of the civic polls in the state, the BJP now risks facing the wrath of food growers in neighbouring Haryana in the run-up to the panchayat election, with senior Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Gurnam Singh Chaduni leader on Sunday urging the local farming community not to vote for those who are against their ongoing agitation.
Addressing a massive turnout at a Kisan Mahapanchayat at Indri town in Haryana’s Karnal district on Sunday, Chaduni said, “We request you (farmers) not to vote for those who don’t support you in this dharmayudh (battle for existence) if they stand in any election – be it for a panchayat or the Parliament.”
Though the farmer leader did not take any name, there was little doubt who he has gunning for as the ruling BJP-JJP coalition in the state has been facing protests over the farm laws brought by the Centre. Amid loud cheers from the crowd, Chaduni said, “Ensure they (BJP, JJP) don’t find any takers for their tickets to contest the upcoming elections. They shouldn’t find anyone who is willing to fight the election under their flags and on their tickets.”
To more applause from the gathering, the farmer leader added, “We have to ensure peace and not fight with the police. Those (BJP-ruled Centre) who have framed these laws are the ones our protest is directed at. Whenever they come to hold rallies or panchayats to seek your votes, teach them a lesson as you had done to Khattar sahab (Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar) in Karnal.” He was referring to how the protesting farmers hadn’t allowed CM Khattar to address a ‘Kisan Mahapanchayat’ of the BJP in Karnal district on January 10, despite the deployment of 1,500 police personnel, barricading and use of teargas and baton-charge as protests broke out.
The panchayats polls in the state are due shortly as the tenure of all the rural administrative bodies will end in a matter of days. Senior BJP leaders had to skip or cancel events scheduled in the lead-up to the civic polls in Punjab, with the party alleging that it was denied a safe place to campaign by the Congress-ruled state.
The farmers’ meeting at Indri town was the latest in a series of such gatherings against the contentious farm laws in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab. Senior farmer leaders, including Rakesh Tikait, Balbir Singh Rajewal, Dr. Darshan Pal and Khap leaders Sombir Sangwan (independent MLA) and Tek Ram Kandela, were among the attendees at the mahapanchayat on Sunday.
Claiming big corporates will grab farmers’ land once these laws are implemented, Chaduni said, “We are fighting to save our livelihoods, we are not here for fun. We are not protesting to become rich. These laws are meant to deprive us of our bread. With their implementation, the agriculture sector will fall into the hands of corporates. The jobs and livelihoods of 65% of our population, comprising farmers, labourers, arthiya (commission agents at mandis) and small traders will be at the mercy of the corporates. It is to save us from ruin that we are on the streets today. As many as 250 of our protesting brothers have embraced martyrdom during the agitation.”
“In Parliament, Pradhan Mantri ji remembered the broken (mobile) towers (during the stir) but expressed no grief for the kin of 250 farmers who died during the protest. The (state) agriculture minister mocked our martyrs yesterday claiming they could have also died at their homes. He probably doesn’t know that 10 to 12 our martyrs committed suicide. He doesn’t even know how many died in accidents. We’re biding our time before we teach such people a lesson,” Chaduni added.