Congress, Akali Dal will not be able to win trust of Punjab farmers

The India Today-Axis My India exit poll has predicted that despite farmer unrest, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Congress will not be able to win the trust of the farmer community in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in Punjab.

The exit poll says that Congress and SAD may lose six per cent and three per cent rural vote share respectively in Punjab.

The bulk of the farmers’ vote share (16 per cent) will go to the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Surprisingly, the BJP, which was not even allowed to campaign in rural areas, may get six per cent farmer vote share in the state.

The BJP, Congress, Akali Dal and AAP may get an overall 14 per cent, 31 per cent, 27 per cent and 24 per cent respectively of the rural (farmer) vote share in the state.

One may wonder how the BJP can secure the farmers’ vote despite facing strong opposition from farmer unions on the issue of minimum support price (MSP) and other demands. The answer lies in the BJP’s electoral strategy. The bulk of the rural or farmer vote share will be that of landless, Mazhabi Sikh farmers and farm labourers, who, according to BJP leaders, are being used by farmer unions led by Jat leaders to swell the numbers at protest sites. Party sources say BJP leaders have been successful in convincing these farmers that they are being exploited in the name of farmer protests. The demand for MSP will only benefit landowners and most landless farmers in Punjab do not own agricultural land. Only three per cent of them own land. In fact, their rights, including rights over village common land, have never been taken into consideration. Exit poll forecasts indicate that six per cent of poor, Dalit landless farmers and farm labourers may vote in favour of the BJP this time. The ruling AAP, which already enjoys the trust of rural voters in the 2022 assembly elections, will get an additional 16 per cent farmer votes in the Lok Sabha elections.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Haryana, the BJP and its former ally Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) are expected to lose three per cent and eight per cent farmer vote share, respectively.

Exit polls have predicted that India Block will be a big beneficiary and is likely to get nine per cent additional votes. Indian National Lok Dal is also expected to get two per cent additional rural votes.

The BJP, India Block, JJP and INLD will get 41 per cent, 48 per cent, two per cent and four per cent farmer votes, respectively.

The BJP suffered losses in Haryana as it did not allow farmers heading to New Delhi with their demands to enter the state in February this year.

Several farmers died during the four-month-long protest and many are still protesting at the Shambhu border. The JJP, which earlier got around 10 per cent rural votes, will lose eight per cent rural vote share. The JJP’s loss will benefit the Congress and the INLD.

The BJP, which won all 10 seats in Haryana in 2019, is expected to lose two to four seats to the India Block this time.

The main reason for the BJP not being able to retain all 10 seats in Haryana is the anti-incumbency wave of 10 years, rising prices and unemployment rate, besides farmer unrest.