Is the left-right divide within the farmer groups at the centre of anti-farm laws causing strain in the prolonged agitation? A question that has started to nag senior farm leaders as extremist elements have started jostling for dominance in the three-month long agitation.
Growing incidents of right wing radical elements holding show of strength ostensibly for drumming up support for the anti-farm law stir have started giving anxious moments to some left leaning farm leaders, who fear that they steadily are being pushed to the fringes.
The latest incident was the huge rally organised by fugitive gangster-turned-activist, Lakha Sidhana, in the ancestral village of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
Despite the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella organisation spearheading the farmer’s agitation, asking people to stay away from the rally, a big turnout was recorded.
With elections just a year from now in Punjab, some of the radical elements like Lakha, his associate Deep Sidhu — who is in judicial custody for the January 26 violence — and members of Simranjit Singh Mann-led Akali Dal (Amritsar) seem contemplating using stir as a stepping stone for their political ambitions.
Significantly, at the Mehraj rally, supporters of Lakha gave a call for ‘rejecting’ mainstream parties like SAD, the Congress and AAP and ‘instead chose community leaders like Lakha and Deep’.
The indications were clear that Lakha was eyeing a major political role in the upcoming Assembly polls. Observers say that radical groups sensing an opportunity to recover the lost political ground on this issue have come together on one platform.
Contrary to the national flags seen fluttering mainly at farmer agitation sites, at Mehraj rally it was more of Sikh religious flags that dotted the venue indicating that radical elements were trying to ‘target’ the youths for support.
For Lakha, it won’t be a maiden attempt to test political waters. He unsuccessfully contested 2012 Assembly polls from Rampura Phul Assembly segment on a PPP ticket, the party launched by finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal, which later got merged into the Congress. Lakha has formed his NGO Malwa Youth Foundation, which he claims is working towards the ‘revival of Punjabi language’ in the State. Not just the Mehraj rally, smaller group meetings are being organised in rural areas ostensibly for protesting farm laws, but observers believe radical agenda seem quiet visible.
The Left-aligned farmer unions are wary about the growing clout and allege that these radical elements were being propped up.
“There motives are clearly mischievous. They want to give a new direction to the agitation and the Assembly elections are clearly on their minds,” admitted a senior farmer leader.