Has repeal of farm laws made farmers a formidable political force in Punjab?


NEW DELHI: Have the farmer leaders emerged as a formidable political force in Punjab after forcing the all-powerful Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre bow before their demands at a time when the high-stakes battle of the ballot is round the corner in the state? 

In nearly 14 month-long agitations, the farmer leaders have tried to keep the political parties away from their struggle or openly use their political platform yet their movement was not apolitical even as Bharatiya Kisan Union (Haryana), a constituent of  Samyukat Kissan Morcha( SKM), a joint platform of farmers union, have indicated of contesting elections in their individual capacity. 

Though the farmers who had been camping on the multiple borders of Delhi enduring all kinds of rough treatment and austere conditions are now returning home while celebrating their success, the political parties here have already scripted the roles of farmer leaders to be played during the political campaigning so as to take maximum political mileage by proclaiming farmers ‘victory’ which however is questionable. 

It’s not hidden that many ‘recognizable’ farm unions are in one or other way affiliated to some or other political party yet time holds the key which farm union throws the weight of its ‘victory’ behind which political party or if some underhand deals are made to en-cash the farmer’s success. 

The BJP in Punjab that faced the brunt of the farmer’s agitation to an extent that its longtime political alliance partner Shiromani Akali Dal- Badal (SAD-B) chose to sever ties for the sake of the interests of farmers or its regional political interests is likely to make the most out of it. 

Leaders of the saffron party have already started patting their own backs in public claiming to have not only ‘resolved’ farmers issues but also reopened the Kartarpur Corridor while on the other hand parties like SAD(B), Indian National Congress (INC), and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) takes the credit for being shoulder-to-shoulder with the farmers during their agitation and lending them political strength which made the Centre government repeal the three controversial farm laws. 

Punjab’s former chief minister Capt Amrinder Singh has formed its own political party, Punjab Lok Congress and announced that he would open to have a coalition with the BJP.

Farmers’ protest may be over, but farm politics is likely to gain strength in Punjab which may also set the tone of a new era of Punjab politics with farmers in focus but how much the farmers’ struggle or their victory helps to develop the Punjab agriculture is also yet to be seen. 

It is pertinent to mention that at present, out of 117 assembly seats, the Indian National Congress has 80 seats followed by APP with 17 seats, SAD 14 seats BJP 2 and four others. 

A yearlong farmer protest is over now, farmers coming back to their home and to their fields but the protests which have seen departing of SAD-BJP, Congress within Congress and new coalitions, will surely redraw new political alignments in the state. 

With political psychologists expecting a four-cornered contest in the majority of assembly constituencies of Punjab during the ensuing assembly elections, not only the leaders of all the major political parties including Congress, BJP, SAD(B), AAP as well all regional parties believe that it is time for farmers to have their say in the politics especially when they have triumphed by forcing the Centre government to accept their demands. 

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