Assembly polls: Decision by farmers and workers to join hands may damage BJP’s electoral prospects

Farmers and trade unions have decided not only to launch a joint political campaign against the BJP in forthcoming polls but also on combining their demands and planning common actions

Assembly polls: Decision by farmers and workers to join hands may damage BJP’s electoral prospects

Gyan Pathak

Farmers and workers have started joining hands against the BJP which is seen by most of them as their enemy no.1. The agitating farmers’ unions against the three farm laws and the 10 central trade unions against the four labour codes have decided to launch a joint action plan against the BJP during the Vidhan Sabha elections to be held in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala. It is seen as a significant political move that is potentially damaging to the electoral prospects of the BJP.

The farmers’ union and the 10 central trade unions have been agitating for last several months against the three farm laws and the four labour codes respectively which are perceived as highly damaging for the future of farmers and workers. The farmers’ agitation has formally been by and large apolitical, but it is acquiring a political dimension. Angry farmers in Punjab have most recently acted against the BJP during the election to the local urban bodies, but that was not a formal decision. But BJP candidates had to suffer humiliating defeat.

However, the farmers unions under the Samyukta Kisan Morcha banner have decided to carry a joint campaign against the BJP in association with 10 central trade unions. The anger of the workers had also played its role in the local bodies’ elections of the market and industrial towns of Punjab causing the humiliating defeat for both the BJP and its former alliance partner, the SAD.

The humiliating defeat of the BJP and the SAD in Punjab local bodies’ elections has tremendously boosted the morale of the farmers and the workers, and they want to inflict similar humiliation to the BJP in the coming Vidhan Sabha elections. The farm and trade unions have therefore agreed not only to launch a joint political campaign against the BJP in all the five states going to polls in the following weeks, but have also decided on combining their demands and planning common actions.

Only the elections results will reveal its exact effect on the BJP’s electoral prospects, but it is certain that it would damage it considerably and also its alliance partners.

The joint meeting of the farmers’ and trade unions held for this purpose has decided to undertake the joint campaign with five common demands – three from the farmers’ side and two from the trade unions’ side. The farmers’ demands include repeal of the farm reform laws, withdrawal of the Electricity Bill waiting to be passed by Parliament, and a legal guarantee for the MSP. The two demands from the workers’ side include withdrawal of the four labour codes and stopping of govt’s privatisation drive.

Initially, farmers launched an agitation only against the farm laws and their movement was apolitical. However, with passage of time they are realizing that the three farm laws are only a part of a wider agenda of the BJP-led Union government. The passage of four labour codes and the large scale privatization of the public sector in the country are also seen as its part. The realization of this in both sides made them join hands against the BJP.

It was suggested in the meeting that the farmers and trade unions start a series of agitation programme including observing March 15 as ‘anti-privatisation day’. The martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru is also being planned to be observed on March 23.

AITUC took the leading role in organizing the joint meeting. Its general secretary Amarjeet Kaur said farmers and workers’ representatives suggested certain programmes including the observance of March 15 as ‘anti-privatization day’. The government is going ahead ruthlessly with its programme of privatizing the public sector undertakings. Both the farmers and the workers see this move as a big threat to the national economy. The unions are now determined to fight this govt move jointly.

A R Sindhu, secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, noted that while some of the left-aligned farmers’ groups had previously joined hands with the workers, it was the first time that politically non-aligned Punjab farmers’ unions, with their financial and manpower resources, would come on board a joint platform.

The move is also significant because the BJP is trying its best to retain its power in Assam while pitted against TMC in West Bengal to try and wrest power from it. The Assam election is being held for the first time after the NRC came to be implemented in the state. A large number of Hindus and the Muslims in the state underwent great sufferings apart from the Bangladeshis which India seeks to deport to their country. There is sharp polarization on communal lines. One of the key allies of the BJP has left it and joined the opposition ranks. In this complex scenario, workers and farmers may play an important role.

The political scenario in West Bengal is more or less the same as in Assam. The BJP is pinning hopes on being able to gain on the communal frenzy. But the state has a considerable population of farmers and workers who can play spoilsport for the BJP candidates.

The BJP does not have much at stake in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, but it is hoping to make inroads which the farmers and workers can block.

In Puducherry, the BJP has almost no political base though it hopes of gaining on the recent political turmoil, which can be thwarted by the joint farmers and workers movement.

(IPA Service)

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