Sensing an opportunity to get guaranteed MSP ahead of the next general election scheduled for 2024, farmer leaders have geared up activities to build momentum, for which informal talks have already started among various outfits. The main Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), which spearheaded the one-year-long farmer protest that finally forced the government to withdraw the three controversial farm laws, got weakened following several splits and desertions in the past one year.

“The legal guarantee of the minimum support price (MSP) is one issue on which there is no disagreement among all farmer unions. Besides, there is also unanimity on fixing the MSP at the C2+50 per cent formula,” said Avik Saha of Jai Kisan Andolan, who is also one of the members of the steering committee of SKM.

Pressure on political parties

As some State elections are scheduled for next year, and the general election is also slated for after one and a half years, there will be pressure on political parties to meet farmers’ demands, said Darshan Pal, a farmer leader from Punjab. Pal said that there would be at least 50,000 farmers in Chandigarh on the protest march.

Before the 2014 general election, it was Narendra Modi as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate who first promised to implement the Swaminathan formula in fixing MSP at 50 per cent profit over cost following several agitations on the demand by various farmer unions at that time. Later in 2018, the Centre implemented the promise by fixing the MSPs of 23 crops at a minimum 50 per cent profit over the costs of production (A2+family labour).

Nationwide march

Earlier, addressing the media on Thursday, Pal said that Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) would hold nationwide march to Raj Bhawans on November 26, to mark the two years of the farmer protest that reached Delhi’s border from Punjab. He alleged that there was a breach of assurance by the Centre on farmers’ pending demands. He also said that farmers would celebrate November 19 as “Fateh Diwas” or “Victory Day” to mark Prime Minister Modi’s announcement to repeal the farm laws.

The SKM’s general body is also scheduled to meet at Karnal, Haryana, on December 8 to decide the future course of the movement.

Asked about the several splits in the front (SKM), Yudhvir Singh of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) said he was hopeful of a re-union of all organisations as the issue is important and everyone wants to do something for the benefit of farmers. Some 16 organisations have returned to the SKM fold after they realised it was a mistake to fight elections in Punjab, while six outfits are still outside the Front, farmer leaders said.

“When a call was given to march to Delhi in 2020, there was no existence of SKM, and it was formed only after farmers reached the Delhi border. Of course, the three “black laws” then provided the momentum, but the legal guarantee could also be a similar focal point for future agitation,” Saha said.

When asked if legal guarantee of MSP still has relevance as farmers sold above the benchmark prices most of the rabi crops such as wheat, mustard, lentil and barley in 2022, he said the domestic prices of agricultural produces were higher due to the war that affected global supplies of many crops and the issue of farmers realising MSP or not should be seen in a normal situation.

According to official data, the all-India average mandi prices of wheat were 3 per cent higher than their MSP of ₹2,015 per quintal during the main arrival period (March–June) of 2022. Similarly, lentils were sold by farmers at 15 per cent above their MSP of ₹5,500 per quintal, mustard at 26 per cent above 5,050, and barley at 56 per cent higher than ₹1,635/quintal. Only gram (chana) was sold at 11 per cent below its MSP of ₹5,230 per quintal.

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