Dehradun: A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the repeal of the three contentious farm laws, agitating Sikh farmers and community leaders Saturday told ThePrint that they will no longer boycott the BJP.
They said that an informal ban, preventing community members and leaders from joining the BJP or participating in the ruling party’s activities, is no more effective.
The Sikh community and farmer leaders added that although their agitation will continue, in line with instructions from the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) and the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), those from the community looking to join the BJP can do so.
The Sikh community dominates villages in the Udham Singh Nagar district of Kumaon.
“A sense of satisfaction has prevailed in the Sikh community, especially in Udham Singh Nagar district, after the Prime Minister publicly announced to repeal the three laws but agitation will carry on unless the commitment is brought into effect,” said the BKU state president Karam Singh Padda. “But now BJP leaders and their workers from within the Sikh community or those from outside can come to our villages to hold their campaigns and rallies.”
Padda, however, added that winning the confidence of the community will take time for the ruling party.
“Seeds of discontentment against the BJP had been sown during the long standing protests and agitation against the farm laws. Farmers had to bear extreme climatic adversity and brutalities of the security forces in the last one year but they remained undeterred,” he said. This cannot be forgotten in a day or two. Things will improve but it will take time.”
BKU state vice-president Ajit Randhawa told ThePrint that it is difficult to say if Sikh voters will support the BJP in the coming assembly election but added that the PM’s public announcement has paved the way for the Uttarakhand Sikhs to join the party and take part in its election campaign.
“The ban boycotting the BJP has been lifted. BJP’s local Sikh leaders and workers are now free to join party activities as per their choice. We know many Sikh community members from Tarain belt of Kumaon are willing to join routine activities of the BJP but they were held back to express solidarity with the agitating farmers,” Randhawa said.
Almost every Sikh farmer from the Tarain region of Kumaon had been supporting the agitation at Ghazipur Border for nearly a year. Sikhs voters have a decisive say in nine of the 11 assembly constituencies in the region. Barring one, BJP had won all the seats in 2017.
BJP’s lone Sikh MLA happiest person in Uttarakhand
The BJP’s lone Sikh legislator Harbhajan Singh Cheema, who represents Kashipur in Udham Singh Nagar, told ThePrint that he is the most relieved person and political figure in Uttarakhand today as he was under pressure to resign from the state assembly and join the farmers’ agitation.
“The Prime Minister’s announcement has come at the most appropriate time. The Prime Minister and the BJP were being portrayed by the Congress and other political parties as if they were anti-farmers and anti-Sikh,” he said. “The entire Sikh community was poisoned against the BJP by our political adversaries. It all started in Haryana and later shifted to Punjab with a design to create a wide gulf between the BJP and the Sikhs but now things will improve and everyone in Uttarakhand will start working for the party as before. It’s a matter of few days before Sikh community leaders and supporters will be back with the BJP.”
Cheema, a four-time BJP MLA, admitted that he was under huge pressure from the Sikh leaders of Uttarakhand to leave the BJP but he was able to sustain it.
“They were pressuring me to give up my assembly membership and resign from the BJP but I managed to hang in,” he said. “I was not able to reach out to the villagers and campaign for the party until the PM announced the decision to repeal the farm laws. But now things will change in Uttarakhand in the BJP’s favour.”
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)