HARYANA-BASED farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni on Saturday launched his own political party, announcing that he would contest all the 117 seats in the coming Punjab Assembly elections.
One of the most prominent faces in the farmer agitation that went on for a year, Chaduni promised that his Sanyukt Sangharsh Party would be “secular”, and work for all sections of society, unlike current political leaders whom he accused of “framing policies in favour of capitalists”.
Soon after Chaduni’s announcement, Punjab’s 32 farmer unions held a meeting to discuss participation in the polls, but could not reach a decision. The BKU (Ugrahan), the largest of the unions, stayed away, as it had announced earlier, saying it wanted to focus on farmer issues and did not want anything to do with politics.
The leader of the BKU (Chaduni) and a member of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) which spearheaded the farmers’ agitation, Chaduni has been asking farmer unions in Punjab to fight the polls. To a query on Saturday, he said he himself would not be contesting, nor would he align with any party.
The Punjab farmer unions held their meeting at Mullanpur in Ludhiana. Discussions were held on whether they should form a joint political front, or separate outfits, extend support to a party, or steer clear of politics.
However, the talks remained inconclusive. Buta Singh Burjgill, president of the BKU (Dakaunda), said they would meet again after December 20 to decide.
To fight or not to fight
While now repealed, the farm laws and the long protest over them are set to dominate the coming Punjab Assembly elections. At this time, the entry of the farm unions that spearheaded the protests in the race will upset poll calculations of parties.
Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of the BKU (Rajewal), on Saturday denied rumours that he had been approached by AAP.
Prem Singh Bhangu, president of the All India Kisan Mahasabha Federation (Punjab), said they expect Chaduni to join them if they float a political party. Harmeet Singh Kadian, president of the BKU (Kadian), said, “We don’t want to be part of the political system but we are getting messages from masses that we should be…”
BKU (Ugrahan) leader Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan told The Sunday Express: “By being part of the political system you can’t act as a strong pressure group.”
Chaduni said he expects at least nine farmer outfits of Punjab to support his plan to join politics.
Earlier, an industrialists’ body from Punjab had announced a new party with Chaduni as its chief ministerial face. Chaduni said he was “neither a CM face nor would contest polls in Punjab”.