Farmer leaders are likely to attend the mahapanchayats in Kolkata’s Bhowanipore, and in Nandigram on Saturday. Similar events will be held in Singur and Asansol on Sunday
Farmers leading the sustained protests against the Centre’s farm laws at Delhi’s borders have shifted focus to the poll-bound state of West Bengal. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of over 40 farmers’ unions, on Friday urged farmers in the state not to vote for the BJP in the upcoming elections.
Several leaders of the SKM are set to participate in rallies and kisan mahapanchayats across the state on Saturday and Sunday.
The farmer unions’ events will come amid an already-volatile political atmosphere, with the BJP and TMC running high-octane campaigns to secure power in the state. While the saffron party is bolstered by the gains made in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and the stream of top TMC leaders seeking to join it, the TMC has tried to shape the narrative to show Mamata as “Bengal’s own daughter” and the BJP as “outsiders”.
Farmer leaders Rakesh Tikait and Yudhvir Singh are likely to attend the mahapanchayats in Kolkata’s Bhowanipore, and in Nandigram on Saturday. Similar events will be held in Singur and Asansol on Sunday, PTI reported.
Nandigram and Singur are synonymous with anti-land acquisition movements that catapulted the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC to power in 2007.
Banerjee is contesting from the Nandigram seat in Purba Medinipur district, where she will face her former aide and present BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari.
Tikait, who is credited with reviving the protest at the Ghazipur site after the Republic Day violence in Delhi, said he will urge people to vote against the BJP.
Stating that he will not seek votes or campaign for any party, Tikait added that he will hold discussions on the election with “distressed farmers” in the state.
“I will go to Kolkata on 13 March. The clarion call for a decisive struggle will come from Kolkata. We will talk to farmers there and urge them to defeat the BJP,” the BKU leader said.
The farmer leader said a call has already been made to defeat the BJP in the five Assembly elections scheduled to begin from 27 March, but asserted that he will not support any political party.
Tikait was quoted by India Today as saying, “We are not going there to ask for votes, but if someone in Bengal or local media will ask us that which way the voters should go then we are going to tell them that do not support BJP. Apart from BJP they can vote for any party of their choice.”
He also condemned the alleged attack on West Bengal chief minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee on Thursday. He said, “Mamata is fighting a lone battle in the state and she is like Rani Lakshmi Bai. In a country where the government is claiming to have big schemes on women empowerment, such kind of attacks should be condemned. The whole country is pained due to the attack on Didi.”
Additionally, the farmer leaders are preparing for a tractor rally through West Bengal on 5 April. “Modi will travel in a helicopter, we will follow him in tractors,” Tikait was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.
Electoral defeat will ‘force’ BJP to repeal farm laws, says SKM
Meanwhile, the SKM issued a statement urging West Bengal farmers to stand against the saffron party, saying that electoral defeat will force the BJP-led government at the Centre to repeal the three farm laws. The BJP should be “taught a lesson”, they added.
“We have been on Delhi’s borders for 105 days and protested against the three laws in Punjab before that. Now we are coming to you,” said the Punjab farm leader Balbir Singh Rajewal.
“Farmers are challenging the powers-that-be in the only way that they understand. We are not here to directly intervene in the elections. We don’t have any candidate, we have not formed any political party, we are not supporting any party. We are only saying, please teach the BJP a lesson,” Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav was quoted as saying by The Hindu.
“In order to open the ears of the government to the demands of the agitating farmers, there is a need to hurt them in the elections,” he said.
Social activist Medha Patkar, while accusing the BJP of trying to “sell the country” to a few corporates, also urged people to exercise their franchise cautiously.
Condemning the Centre for “insulting” the farmers’ stir, Patkar said even the British occupiers had not resorted to acts which the present government is indulged in. She also hailed the passage of a resolution against the farm laws in the West Bengal Assembly.
Patkar also alleged that the corporates are giving the BJP huge amounts as donation in electoral bonds. “The farmers cannot afford to give such donations and so their voices are not heard,” she said.
The farmers’ efforts to up the pressure on the BJP in poll-bound states is likely to be successful, with the ABP-CNX survey predicting that the farm laws issue will damage the BJP’s electoral gains in West Bengal.
“Around 48.65 percent opined it (the farmers’ protest issue) will impact the state elections while another 35.81 percent said the other issues are more important. However, another 15.54 percent remained neutral,” the report said.
With inputs from PTI
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