Hinting that farmers may back the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) candidate in the October 30 bypoll in Haryana’s Ellenabad, farmer leader Rakesh Tikait on Wednesday warned against the BJP allegedly using money power to sway voters.
However, Mr Tikait stopped short of openly supporting any side and clarified that he is not backing a candidate.
Addressing a gathering of farmers in Ellenabad, Mr Tikait said, “This area is a Panchayati area and nobody lies in the Panchayat. If a person left his bag with you six months ago and has come back to ask for it, give it to him. Someone went to Canada, his family stayed there, he kept a bag in the gurdwara three years ago. It’s his bag, you don’t need to open and search his things, you give it back, add something more to it,” he said.
The remarks are being seen as a veiled advice to back INLD leader Abhay Chautala, who stepped down as MLA in support of the farmers’ protest against the centre’s farm laws and is now contesting the bypolls.
Targeting the BJP, Mr Tikait said, “These BJP people are schemers. This Modi government runs on big money. Big corporates are running this company. They want to buy the Sarpanch. Is there such a Sarpanch who can be bought with their money?”
Warning the people against the use of money power to swing the polls, he said, “These are people who buy Panchayats. Beware, these are crooks. Go do your work and add some more to the person who left his bag,” said the farmer leader.
As the Samyukt Kisan Morcha — the united front of farmer organisations protesting against the farm laws — has a stated position of not supporting any party in elections even though it opposes the BJP, Mr Tikait rounded off his remarks with a disclaimer. “These media people will say that I have supported a candidate but I haven’t done that. I’m just saying these BJP people are crooks. Return the things to the person who left his stuff,” he said.
Ahead of the Bengal elections earlier this year, where the BJP was routed as the Mamata Banerjee government returned to power, Mr Tikait had addressed rallies in the state and campaigned against the BJP. He has also said that he will canvass against the BJP in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls due next year.
As for the Ellenabad bypoll, it is a crucial election for both the BJP and the INLD. The constituency is a stronghold of the Chautala clan that split when Dushyant Chautala founded the Jannayak Janata Party and joined hands with the BJP.
Abhay Chautala was the lone INLD MLA in the 90-member Assembly and a defeat in this bypoll will leave the party with no representation in the House.
For the BJP, a defeat will be seen as a mandate against the farm laws.