Balbir Singh Rajewal is an Indian politician and founder of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Rajewal who gained popularity after his active participation in the 2020 Indian farmers’ protest. In December 2021, he became the Chief Ministerial candidate of the Sanyukt Samaj Morcha (SSM) party for the 2022 Punjab Legislative Assembly elections.
Balbir Singh Rajewal was born on Friday, 20 August 1943 (age 78 years; as of 2021) in Rajewal, Ludhiana, Punjab. His zodiac sign is Leo. After attending A. S. Sr Sec School, Khanna, Ludhiana district of Punjab, he enrolled himself in A.S. College, Khanna.
Height (approx.): 5’ 8”
Hair Colour: Grey
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
Balbir Singh Rajewal was born into a Sikh Balbir Singh Rajewal’s Facebook family in Ludhiana, Punjab. His father, Asa Singh, was a farmer. Not much is known about his mother. He grew up with two elder brothers. Rajewal’s entire family has been active in the farmer agitations to such an extent that once his father, brothers and, even sister-in-law was jailed while fighting for the farm rights.
Wife & Children
Rajewal started off his career as a telegraphist, but he resigned in 1968. He is also a former employee of the Punjab telephone department. Later, he started farming in his native village Rajewal in Ludhiana, Punjab. Additionally, he is also the owner of two rice mills, located near Rajewal. For a while, he also worked as an “Arhtiya” (commission agent) in Khanna Mandi in Ludhiana. Soon, he dropped the profession to be in sync with farmer union members. He holds the position of chairman in the Management Committee of Malwa College Bondli-Samrala, Punjab, a leading educational institution in the Samrala region.
In his village, Rajewal runs an honesty stationery shop for students called “Sach Di Dukan” (Truth’s Shop). The shop is not managed by any shopkeeper. Instead, it has a box in which customers can voluntarily deposit the money for the items they purchase.
An accomplished orator, Rajewal has been a farm union leader in Punjab since the 1970s. In 1972, eleven peasant groups in Chandigarh joined hands to form Punjab Khetibari Zamindari Union, which was later renamed Punjab Khetibari Union (PKU). Rajewal was one of the founding members of the union. In December 1978, PKU was renamed Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) to create a national forum for farmers. Thereafter, Rajewal was appointed BKU’s secretary. At BKU, Rajewal worked with renowned Indian farmer leaders like Mahendra Singh Tikait, Sharad Anantrao Joshi, and Narayan Swami, who actively participated in farmer agitational campaigns. After being associated with BKU (Lakhowal) from 1974 to 1988, and then BKU (Mann), in 2001, he floated his own outfit BKU (Rajewal). In 1974, a movement was launched by farmers when restrictions were put on them for selling their wheat outside the state. Rajewal actively took part in the agitation defying the zonal restrictions on the sale of wheat. Rajewal drafted the constitution of the Khetiwari Union, which was adopted by BKU in 1978. He fought for the issue of electricity charges for farmers in 1983. Although various farmer groups split from BKU in 1988, Rajewal’s association with BKU remained intact. In 2013, he sat on a hunger strike to demand relief for farmers under drought fund and relief for tubewell bills. His perseverance was successful in getting relief of Rs. 800 crores for the farmers.
In 2020, a protest was launched against The Indian agriculture Act of 2020, often termed the Farm Bills, which were initiated by the Parliament of India in September 2020. Soon after the introduction of Farm Bills, several unions began holding local protests in Punjab. After two months of protests, farmer unions, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, in which tens of thousands of farming union members marched towards the nation’s capital, Delhi, where they coordinated non-violent resistance on the borders of the city. The protest was joined by various BKU factions, including BKU (Rajewal), headed by Balbir Singh Rajewal.
Earlier, BKU (Rajewal) was not much organised and was mainly active in Patiala, Sangrur, Mohali, Ropar, Ludhiana, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur, Ferozepur, Nawanshahr, Jalandhar and several districts of the Malwa region. However, it rapidly evolved to become one of the leading farmer organisations of Punjab during the 2020 Indian farmers’ protest. The BKU (Rajewal)’s activists picketed political leaders, especially from the BJP and the SAD, whenever they visited Punjab for attending any political functions or events. This led to a remarkable rise in Rajewal’s prominence as a key farmer leader of Punjab, as earlier, he was considered to be more a businessman. Rajewal’s skilful representation of the farmer’s viewpoint played a key role during the negotiations with the government regarding the Farm Bills. Additionally, his leadership skills came in handy for the planning and implementation of the protest. In November 2020, amid the protest, a coalition of over forty Indian farmers’ unions was formed called Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) of which Rajewal was a prominent leader. During the protest, he expressed his views about the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, and said that the farmers were already exercising the right to sell their farm produce anywhere in the country since 1976. Furthermore, he alleged that the Modi government had introduced Farm Bills precisely to pander to the corporates. While explaining the redundancy of the bill, in an interview, he said,
We had achieved the facility in 1976, when the court had given farmers the freedom to sell anywhere, but this government only wanted to promote corporates. The laws were not for the welfare of farmers, but for the welfare of corporates.”
In a televised address on 19 November 2021, Narendra Modi announced that the government would be repealing the Farm Bills.
Although he had shown flexibility in his political leanings over the past decades, which ranged from the Congress to the Shiromani Akali Dal, to the Aam Aadmi Party, he was against any political participation until the farm laws were formally repealed on 29 November 2021. Until 2002, Rajewal supported the Congress government on some farmer issues, but when it refused to release Rs. 110 crore as compensation for farmers’ paddy damages, he launched an agitation against them. In 2014, then Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal, offered Rajewal the position of “Halka Incharge” (constituency incharge) from the Samrala Assembly segment, which Rajewal refused to accept as he did not want to contest in the polls. In the 2017 Punjab Assembly polls, Rajewal started backing the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), and later, he exhibited close ties with the President of Shiromani Akali Dal Captain Amarinder Singh. When the 2022 Punjab Legislative Assembly elections were approaching, reportedly, AAP’s national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had offered to make Rajewal its CM candidate, but under the pressure of farmer unions, he did not accept it. On December 26, 2021, twenty-two SKM factions, headed by Rajewal, floated their own political front called Samyukta Samaj Morcha (SSM), declaring their intentions to participate in the 2022 Punjab Legislative Assembly elections. It was announced that SSM will be contesting from all constituencies in the 117-seat Punjab assembly.
- Accused of raising funds from NRIs: At the beginning of December 2021, Jagjit Singh Dallewal, of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Sidhupur, while addressing the media claimed that various Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) factions had received a lot of money from the NRIs living abroad. In the video, Dallewal claimed that he didn’t ask for a single penny from the NRI’s during the 2020 Indian farmers’ protest. While indirectly pointing out Balbir Singh Rajewal, who was anticipating contesting in the 2022 Punjab Legislative Assembly elections, Dallewal said,
Some of us are too eager to become the chief minister.”
In addition to this taunt, Dallewal requested the NRIs, who had shown generosity during the protest by providing funds, to refrain from sending any money to the political parties to contest in the elections. News18 Punjab/Haryana/Himachal’s YouTube channel
- Jailed for his participation in various protests: Rajewal has been jailed many several times for raising farm issues. The Tribune Rajewal was jailed during the 1974 agitation, which was launched against the zonal restrictions that were put on farmers for selling their wheat outside the state. The Indian Express
- Accused of striking an underhand deal with Amit Shah: On 29 December 2021, Sukhbir Singh Badal, an Indian politician and President of Shiromani Akali Dal, alleged that Balbir Singh Rajewal had struck an underhand deal with Union home minister Amit Shah, which had weakened the Indian farmers’ protest when it was at its peak. Taking to the media person Sukhbir Singh Badal said, The Times of India
The contents of the letter, which is now in the public domain, are even more shocking. They reveal that Rajewal and his close group were willing to sacrifice the welfare of farmers and had even agreed to a partial rollback of the farm laws in direct contravention of the public stand of the kisan andolan (farmers’ protest) that it would only agree to a complete rollback of the three black laws.”
- Ironically, a few months before floating his own outfit BKU (Rajewal), Balbir Singh had opposed Gurnam Singh Chaduni, a Haryana farmer leader, over his political ambitions.
- On 13 December 2021, the Sahnewal Nagar Council, along with Gurdwara Reru Sahib Committee and Kar Sewa Samudaye, honoured Balbir Singh Rajewal for his activism during the Indian farmers’ protest.
- On 20 December 2021, Balbir Singh Rajewal was honoured by Muslims at Jama Masjid in Ludhiana, where he paid tribute to the late Shahi Imam of Punjab Maulana Habib Ur Rehman Sani Ludhianvi.
- Upon the formation of the new political party SSM, SKM had distanced itself from it. A statement forbidding the use of SKM’s logo by any political party was issued by the coordination committee of the SKM.