NEW DELHI: It may not be quite clear how much the protests by farmers impacted the assembly polls, but the outcome will certainly boost protesters to take forward the agitation against the central farm laws.
Though the farmers’ agitation has been primarily centred in Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and parts of Rajasthan, the farm union leaders had held several protest meetings in poll-bound states. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) – a joint platform of farmer organisations to lead the protests – had held a maximum number of public meetings in West Bengal, with a call to the people to defeat BJP.
Since the Left-linked All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) is one of the key constituents of the Morcha, farmers leaders tactically aligned themselves to support and campaign for non-BJP political parties. “Impact of farmers’ protest in West Bengal election result is visible. The rural areas have voted against BJP,” said Avik Saha of Jai Kisan Andolan while flagging the results.
Morcha leaders may try to use the template in the 2022 assembly polls in key agrarian states—Uttar Pradesh and Punjab—if the stir continues. The government on its part may, however, try to find some way out.
“BJP’s defeat in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal underlines the people’s anger against the farm laws and labour codes,” said P Krishnaprasad of AIKS.
Citing re-election of LDF in Kerala, he said, “The farmers’ struggle has influenced this victory decisively and that will help the Left and democratic forces to intensify the farmers’ and workers’ struggles at all-India level.”
Emboldened by the state Assembly polls results, farmer unions protesting against the central farm laws, meanwhile, on Sunday said that their campaign during the polls asking the voters “to punish BJP” stands vindicated. They also appealed to farmers from across the country to “strengthen their resistance and join the movement in greater numbers”.
Reacting to the results which show defeat of BJP in West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the unions’ umbrella body, SKM, said the BJP should listen to the mandate of people which includes the sentiment of farmers and should immediately repeal three agricultural laws and give legal guarantee to procurement of crops at minimum support price (MSP).
“We are again clarifying that this agitation of the farmers will not end until our demands are met,” said the SKM in a joint statement of its leaders including Balvir Singh Rajewal, Hannan Mollah, Darshan Pal, Yudhvir Singh, Jagjeet Singh Dallewal, Gurnam Singh Chaduni, Yogendra Yadav and Abhimanyu Kohar.
The SKM had organised around 100 public meetings ahead of the polls with most of them being held in West Bengal where the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) retained power after defeating the BJP by a huge margin. Public meetings against the farm laws were also held in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In West Bengal, most of these meetings were held in in Singur, Nandigram, Asansol, Kaliaganj, Gangarampur, Gazole and Kolkata.
“The protesting farmers have already proven convincingly that BJP’s communal polarisation agenda is unacceptable. This is a unified struggle of citizens, to protect their livelihoods but also the secular fabric of the country. Our campaign with state assembly voters asking them to punish BJP stands vindicated,” said the SKM leaders in their joint statement.
Appealing to farmers to join the movement in greater numbers, they said, “This movement will continue to spread the democratic values that our constitution espouses, and will further strengthen itself till our demands are fulfilled.”
Welcoming the public mandate against BJP in the state Assembly elections, the SKM leaders said, “While in Assam and Puducherry, the BJP’s communal and immoral politics have managed to prevail, in the major states of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, it is clear that the public rejected the divisive communal politics of BJP.”
The SKM, representing over 500 farmers organisations from across the country, has been protesting against the three central farm laws along Delhi border since November 26 last year. Though the farmer representatives had held 11 rounds of talks with the government with the last one being held in January, they could not reach any solution.
The government had offered them to suspend the implementation of the farm laws for 18 months and suggested forming a committee to find a way forward. The farmer unions, however, rejected the offer and insisted on repeal of the farm laws and giving legal guarantee to procurement at MSP.
The farm laws, enacted last year, are meant for giving more options to farmers for selling their produce outside the state-regulated ‘mandis’ (Agri markets), formalising contract farming practices and liberalising stockholding provisions in the Essential Commodities Act to boost export and attract private investment for creating farm infrastructure, cold chain and warehouses.