Farmers Rally Kolkata, Nandigram in West Bengal
Tikait, Rajewal in West Bengal
West Bengal was a first in the farmers strategy to lobby against the Bharatiya Janata Party in poll bound states. Top leaders of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha including Balbir Singh Rajewal, Rakesh Tikait, Hanan Mollah, Yogendra Yadav, and others have been campaigning in key constituencies in the poll bound state to mobilise public opinion against the BJP that is nipping at Mamata Banerjee’s heels.
The farmers have held “successful” meetings at Nandigram from where the chief minister is contesting, Singur, Asansol and Kolkata. Well known activist Medha Patkar is also campaigning with the farmers with the focus being the BJP. Care is being taken not to canvass for any one political party, in keeping with the SKM decision to remain apolitical and not take sides.
Interestingly, the All India Kisan Sabha that is a mass organisation affiliated to the CPI(M) has given the green signal to the SKM of which it is an important part for this campaign. As a senior leader of the AIKS told The Citizen, “we are here to defeat the BJP, and not the Trinamool Congress party. And in that all farmers organisations are completely united.” The leaders decried reports in a section of the media suggesting differences within, maintaining that the strategy was decided a while ago and politics was not going to come in the way of the farmers mission to get the farm laws repealed.
The farm laws are pivotal to the campaign, but the speakers make it clear that the BJP is anti-farmer and anti-people and caution the audience not to be taken in by the politics of divisiveness. The rallies are large, and the audience responsive and attentive. Several maha panchayats have also been organised in the state by the visiting leaders along with the locals, drawing big crowds. “Vote for any party but not the BJP as that will be against the national interest,” the farmer leaders say.
Tikait is already planning a tractor rally on April 5. The Prime Minister will travel by helicopter the farmers in their tractors, he told reporters. He said that the BJP has to be defeated for “inflicting pain on peasants.”
The Morcha has issued a letter for farmers in the poll bound states of West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry. The letter urges the farmers to defeat the BJP everywhere. “The SKM... is only asking you not to vote for the BJP. We are not advocating for any particular party. We have only one appeal — do not vote even by mistake to the lotus symbol”, the letter reads.
The letter further points out that the laws “dismantle protection for poor farmers and consumers and instead facilitate the expansion of private corporations and big capital”.
And that “the laws will destroy our future as well as our future generations.”
At a press conference in Kolkata Ranewal was clear, “We have come to Bengal now. But our plan is to visit all five states where Assembly elections will happen. We will tell the people in these states to not vote for the BJP. We will tell the people that the policies of the Modi government will destroy the peasantry and our country.”
Yogendra Yadav claimed that “The Modi government does not understand the difference between good and bad. It only understands votes, seats and satta (power). We have to hurt them through votes.”
Meanwhile action is being planned in the states and at Delhi’s borders to keep the mobilisation on. The AIKS has taken the lead to organise three processions from Panipat to the Tikri border today; tomorrow from Bhagat Singh’s village Khatkar Kalan till Singur border; and on March 19 from Mathura to Ghazipur border.