Explained: Why Ellenabad bypoll result will be a bigger referendum for farmers than Abhay or BJP

A look at why the Ellenabad bypoll is important for the farmers protesting against the three central agriculture laws, and how they aim to hit the ruling BJP.

Several farmer leaders, including BKU’s Rakesh Tikait, will be in Haryana’s Sirsa district on Wednesday to campaign against Gobind Kanda, the joint candidate of BJP-JJP alliance for the bypoll to the Ellenabad Assembly seat. A few groups of farmers have already staged protests against the BJP-JJP leaders amid the ongoing canvassing. The Indian Express explains why this bypoll is important for the farmers protesting against the three central agri laws and how they aim to hit the ruling BJP.

Why farmers’ agitation is a key issue in Ellenabad bypoll

Abhay Chautala, who was then the lone legislator of the Indian National Lok Dal, had resigned from the Haryana Assembly in support of the farmers, necessitating the bypoll. The move was seen as an attempt on the part of Abhay to woo the farming community to regain political relevance in the state politics. Abhay, who is again in fray, has, during the campaign, projected the bypoll as a mandate against three contentious farm laws. Further, the Ellenabad constituency is majorly rural with majority of the population dependent on agriculture.

The Congress, which has fielded BJP-rebel Pawan Beniwal, has pitched its campaign on the anger against price rise of essentials and the farm laws.

BJP has nominated Haryana Lokhit Party’s lone MLA Gopal Kanda’s brother Gobind Kanda, who had joined the saffron party on October 5 this year, as its joint candidate with the ruling alliance partner Jannayak Janata Party. Gopal represents Sirsa in Assembly and the brothers enjoy significant support in the area. However, soon after the bypoll was announced, the farmers made public their decision to oppose the BJP.

Why is this election important for the farmers?

This is the first election in any Assembly constituency in Haryana after the farmers’ agitation began 11 months ago. The state has lately emerged as the agitation’s epicentre. Now, the results for the bypoll to Ellenabad constituency may emerge as a referendum on whether the ongoing agitation has had any impact on electoral politics. The farmers say if they succeed in ensuring defeat of the BJP candidate in Ellenabad with an impressive margin, it may reflect the direction the wind is blowing in the region. The bypoll has come months ahead of the Assembly elections in Punjab. The ruling BJP in Haryana has been claiming that agitation has support of “a handful of people”. However, farm leaders have been citing several occasions when thousands of farmers took to the roads over issue that matter to them and also when they forced the state government to rethink its decisions.

How do the farmers aim to hit the BJP in the bypoll?

The farmer leaders are not pitching for any particular party but have been insisting on not voting for the BJP nominee. To make their presence felt, the farmers have already held some protests in Ellenabad during the ongoing poll campaign. BKU’s Gurnam Singh Chaduni addressed four public meetings in a day. Now, several farmer leaders will join a roadshow against the BJP candidate on Wednesday.

How Abhay Chautala’s win may impact the agitation?

After resigning from the Assembly, Abhay Chautala has continuously been visiting the protest sites of farmers. His father and former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala too held several public meetings and a rally in Jind recently. If Abhay wins, he may try to project the result as a mandate against three farm laws. Similar sentiments may be expressed by Congress’s Pawan Beniwal, if he succeeds to enter the Vidhan Sabha. The farmers may also claim that they have widespread support among the electorate especially in farming community.

What happens if BJP wins the bypoll?

The BJP leaders have termed the farmers’ agitation as politically motivated and backed by Congress and communists. Lately, they have started claiming that the farmers have lost the support base. Sirsa is known as strong hold of Chautala family. Most of the times, the Ellenabad seat has been won either by members of the Chautala clan or their associates. This time, however, there is a rift in the clan with Abhay’s elder brother Ajay Chautala’s party JJP supporting the BJP candidate. Ajay’s son Dushyant Chautala is Deputy CM. Om Prakash Chautala’s younger brother Ranjit Singh, who had won the 2019 Assembly election as an independent candidate from neighbouring Rania seat, is now power minister in the BJP-JJP government and is seeking votes for Kanda.

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