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SKM leaders question composition of MSP panel, may give it a miss

The three slots the Centre has kept vacant for the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) in the 29-member high-powered panel formed to make the Minimum Support Price (MSP) mechanism more effective and transparent, are unlikely to be filled by the farm grouping because of reservations of the composition of the committee and over differences that have cropped within the grouping.

The vacant slots will be filled as and when the SKM, the main group that spearheaded the year-long protest against the three farm laws the Centre introduced in 2020, sends the names.

However, already, a few prominent voices in the SKM have questioned the committee’s composition and also its terms of reference, alleging that it violates one basic assurance of the government, which is looking into the modalities of making MSP a legal right.

Also Read: Tikait warns of ‘agriculture hartal’ in India to press for MSP guarantee

That apart, Yogendra Yadav, a prominent leader of the farmers’ agitation, questioned the credentials of some of the non-SKM farmers’ representatives roped in by the government for the panel in a lengthy note he released on Monday.

Yadav said the five non-SKM farmers’ representatives were strong advocates of the now-repealed laws and are loyalists of the government.

They, Yadav said, have been either directly linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or its ideological fountainhead, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), or have supported their policies.

The other farmers’ representatives picked for the panel include Gunwant Patil, Krishan Bir Choudhury, Pramod Kumar Chaudhary, Guni Prakash, and Sayyed Pasha Patel.

Yadav said Krishan Bir Choudhury has been part of the Bhartiya Krishak Samaj and recently joined the BJP; Pramod Kumar Chaudhury is a member of the National Working Committee of the RSS-affiliated Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (BKS); Sayyed Pasha Patel has been a BJP MLC from Maharashtra; and Gunwant Patil has been associated with Shetkari Sangathana and a known votary of the World Trade Organization.

Meanwhile, Guni Prakash is the Haryana unit president of a faction of the Bhartiya Kisan Union that is known for its favourable views on the repealed farm Acts.

“With such names, all fears of SKM about the committee, the composition of the panel, and its purpose has been found to be true,” another leader said.

Yadav also said the chairman of the committee, former agriculture secretary Sanjay Agarwal, was the one who framed the three laws and was a strong advocate of them since the beginning, as was NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand, who drafted those laws.

Rift within SKM

Besides, the SKM has been a divided house, and the consensus that existed during the year-long agitation is no longer present. At one point, the SKM boasted of a conglomeration of more than 300 farmers’ groups from across the country.

However, differences have cropped up after the repeal of the Acts and also the calling off of the agitation on whether members should join active politics.

A section of the SKM, largely composed of groups from Punjab (who have been the biggest in terms of manpower and resources), moved out during the Punjab state polls as member of this faction, composed of members like BKU (Rajewal) and Gurnam Singh Chaduni, contested the Assembly elections.

There have been other points of discord as well.

A few days back, the organisation split again with two core committee members of the SKM – Jagjit Singh Dallewal and Shivkumar Sharma ‘Kakkaji’ – held a convention of about 30 farmers’ organisations.

The duo claimed that their effort is to “depoliticise” the SKM and announced a parallel grouping to the SKM’s call for protests starting from July 18 against the Centre.

Kakkaji is a former leader of the RSS-affiliated BKS, while Dallewal is president of Bhartiya Kisan Union Ekta-Sidhupur.

The new grouping is reported to have targeted the left-leaning All India Kisan Sabha (which has been part of the SKM) and said farmers’ groups should not have any political affiliations.

Dallewal and Kakkaji have also reportedly been opposed to allowing the Punjab-based organisations that split ahead of the state polls to rejoin.

Even within the Bhartiya Kisan Union of Rakesh Tikait, which led the agitation at Delhi’s borders with Uttar Pradesh, the organisation has split with a section calling itself the BKU (apolitical).

This new offshoot, too, is opposed to any political involvement, while Rakesh Tikait and others have alleged that this is part of the ruling BJP’s effort to weaken the farmers’ movement.



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