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1996 TN farmers' protest: Punjab farmers say electoral politics not the way to go

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NewsDrum Desk
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New Delhi, Mar 31 (PTI) Nearly three decades ago, over a thousand farmers in Tamil Nadu, unhappy with government policies, filed nominations from a single constituency in the Lok Sabha polls to draw attention to their grievances.

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It was also the only time when the Election Commission (EC) had to adapt by issuing a "ballot book" instead of traditional "ballot papers" to accommodate the unexpected 1,033 candidates from Erode district's Modakurichi.

However, farmers from Punjab, who have been camping at the state's border with Haryana for almost two months now, do not think electoral politics is the way to go.

These farmers began a march to Delhi on February 13 to press their demands for a legal guarantee of minimum support price (MSP) for their crops and a farm loan waiver, etc., but were stopped at the Haryana border by security personnel.

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The farmers have been camping at the Shambhu and Khanauri points between Punjab and Haryana since then.

All India Kisan Sabha member Krishna Prasad said the farmers are committed to opposing the BJP government and its policies.

"But we do not plan to take that (electoral) route. In the mahapanchayat held in Delhi, we had announced our stance to oppose the BJP and expose its policies. We are united in this cause," Prasad told PTI.

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Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh member Abhimanyu Kohar said, "We have been sitting at the borders since February 13 and we have distanced ourselves from electoral politics. We believe that all parties support farmers when in opposition but when in power, they all become pro-corporate and anti-farmer." When 1,033 farmers from Modakurichi filed nominations for the 1996 Lok Sabha elections, the EC had to print "ballot papers like newspapers" and deploy over four-foot-tall ballot boxes. Voting hours were also extended to accommodate the long list of candidates.

In that election, DMK's Subbulakshmi Jagadeesan emerged victorious, defeating ADMK's R N Kittusamy.

Barring Jagadeesan, Kittusamy and an independent, all candidates lost their deposits. While 88 candidates received no votes, 158 polled just one vote each.

The 1996 general elections also saw the highest number of candidates at 13,000. Following this, the EC increased the security deposit amount from Rs 500 to Rs 10,000. This apparently helped in bringing down the number of contestants per seat to 8.75 in the 1998 Lok Sabha elections. PTI UZM NAB BHJ DIV DIV

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