In a clear indication of muscle-flexing ahead of the Punjab assembly polls, representatives of over two dozen farmer unions convened a meeting with all political parties, minus the BJP, making it abundantly clear that farm laws will form the core agenda for the forthcoming elections.
The leaders from Samyukt Kisan Morcha had virtually summoned representatives from all political parties to the People’s Convention Centre in Chandigarh to discuss contentious farm laws and their stand on it.
The entire top brass of all political outfits made a beeline to the centre. From Navjot Singh Sidhu to Akali Dal leadership all were present. The newly-appointed Congress chief who had earlier rubbed noses on the wrong side with his ‘thirsty should come to the well’ remarks on talks with farmers, was among the first to meet the farmer leaders. He waited for an hour before he was called in.
Some farmer leaders also objected to Sidhu coming to the venue under heavy police cover. Senior leaders like Sukhdev Singh who heads the Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt), also came to meet the leaders in the morning hours only to be told to wait till the post-lunch session.
With popular sentiments on the side of the farmers, all major political parties were wary of taking any contrary view on the contentious farm laws. The SAD led by Sukhbir Badal too was unwilling to antagonize the farmers. In fact, after a few of his events were disrupted, the party had put its ‘Gal Punjab di’ campaign on hold and decided to talk to the farmers’ leaders. “The sentiments are heavily in favour of the farmers stir. So every party wants to be seen on the farmers’ side,’’ commented a protesting farmer leader.
At the all-party meeting, the SKM is reported to have told all political parties to avoid campaigns or rallies before the election dates are announced as it had the potential to divert the attention from farm agitation. “This will also divide the farmer community along party lines and that’s why we want it to be halted for now since our agitation has reached a crucial stage," commented a farmer leader.
At the meeting, the farmer leaders also questioned the delegation from different parties on what pro-farmer measures they had envisioned. “The questioning went way beyond just the farm laws. The farmer leaders discussed several other farmer related issues,’’ revealed a party leader attending the meet.
Though farmer leaders have tried to maintain that the agitation was apolitical, statements by some of its constituent leaders have thrown up interesting propositions. For instance, Gurnam Singh Charuni, an important farmer leader, has publicly asked farmers to contest the elections. “Not matter how strong the rebuttal is but there is always a chance that the agitation at some point will get a political colour, ‘’ commented a leader.