Farmer Unions Contesting Elections in India's Punjab May Have No Impact: Pundits

© Sputnik / Advitya BahlIndian farmers protesting against new farm laws introduced by the Narendra Modi government.
Indian farmers protesting against new farm laws introduced by the Narendra Modi government. - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.02.2022
Elections in the Indian state of Punjab are scheduled to be held on 20 February. The state's ruling party, Congress, will be looking to retain the power and the Aam Aadmi Party, Shiromani Akali Dal, Bharatiya Janata Party and other political groups will be aiming to topple it.
Legislative assembly elections in India’s Punjab have witnessed a whole new throng of contenders to try their chances against the usual lot of established parties after various farmers' groups from the state, who took part in the protest against three new farm laws, have thrown their hat into the political ring.
Sanyukt Sangharsh Party (SSP) - led by farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal - and Sanyukt Samaj Morcha (SSM) founded by another farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni, have formed an alliance to fight the the state polls.
However, this announcement by farmers’ leaders to launch a political front and stand in elections is the opposite of what they had declared during their demonstration against the federal government which lasted more than a year. The farmers' leaders, during the protest against the three farm laws - since repealed - said they had no intention to fight elections or enter politics.
Rajewal also announced that his party is not exclusively for farmers but will welcome other sections of the society including those who work in trade.

Will Farmers Have an Impact in Punjab Polls?

Political analyst Vinod Shukla believes that the farmers' unions contesting the polls in Punjab will have hardly any effect.
"The main reason for this is that most of the land-owning class in Punjab is from the Jat Sikh [community] and there are several claimants for their votes. So, their votes will be scattered,” Shukla says.

He added that apart from this, the newly formed parties by the farmer leaders need to also understand that "they can’t win elections simply on farmers' interests as there are a lot of other issues too".

"Though there is a possibility that contestants for these parties might spoil the election for other parties' candidates, there is hardly any chance that they will win the elections,” he adds.
Another political pundit, Desh Ratan Nigam, echoes these views and reckons that the political parties formed by the farmers may not have any impact in the state polls.
Explaining his reasons, he says: “There are already separate political parties within the farmers’ unions which suggests that they are not themselves a united force."

"Apart from this, the farmer leaders had earlier said that the farmers’ movement was a non-political movement. But now they are entering into politics. So, people assume that the movement was started with a political motive,” he adds.

Nigam, however, says that the political parties formed by the farmers will distract the votes of the Congress, AAP and - to some extent - Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
Shukla believes that there is a direct fight in Punjab between the AAP and the BJP; he says that "it has yet to be seen who will ultimately derive advantage from the political parties formed by farmers in the Punjab state polls."

Farmers' Unions Left with No Strategy

Regarding the farmer leaders' strategy, Shukla says: “Democracy is the game of numbers. A political party should understand who will vote for it."

He suggests that to win the required number of seats to come to power, farmer leaders should have entered into alliance with like-minded political parties. "Other than this, they don’t have any option.”

Nigam, however, says: “I don’t think they can even formulate any strategy because there are many unions supported by various political parties, so they can’t have a common agenda."
"The only thing that was common among them was farm laws that have been repealed. So, they are left with no agenda,” he adds.
Thousands of farmers protested against the three farm laws enacted by the federal government for more than one year at the borders of the national capital Delhi.
The protest ended after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in December last year that the laws would be repealed.
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