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'Ready for Any Sacrifice': BJP Ally SAD Issues Whip to MPs to Vote against Farm Sector Bills in Parliament

File photo of Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal.

File photo of Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal.

SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said his party can make any sacrifice in the interest of farmers as he expressed concerns about the three bills.

With unrest among farmers growing in Punjab, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), an ally of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at Centre, on Wednesday issued a whip to its Rajya Sabha MPs to vote against the three farm sector bills that were tabled in Parliament on Monday. It was issued by the party’s chief whip Naresh Gujral.

SAD chief and Ferozepur Lok Sabha MP Sukhbir Singh Badal, who too had on Tuesday voted against one of the bills, said his party can make any sacrifice in the interest of farmers as he expressed his concerns about the legislations.

Underlining that he himself hails from a farming family, Sukhbir said the SAD essentially is a party of farmers and has always championed their cause.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had said on Tuesday the introduction of the farm bills in Parliament by the Centre had “totally exposed" the SAD’s “pretence" of protecting the interests of farmers of the state.

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The government on Monday introduced ‘The Farmers’ Produce Trade And Commerce (Promotion And Facilitation) Bill’ and ‘The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill’, and ‘The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill’ to replace the ordinances promulgated earlier. One of them — the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020 — was taken up for a discussion on Tuesday and passed by a voice vote.

Participating in the debate, Sukhbir said when the ordinance was being discussed in the Cabinet, his party colleague and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal had raised objections and conveyed the concerns of farmers. She had requested the ordinance be put off, but it was issued regardless, Sukhbir said. Harsimrat Kaur Badal is the Union Food Processing Minister in the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Cabinet.

The government should not have brought the ordinance without consulting farmers, farm organisations, and parties like the SAD that have a substantial presence among the farming community, Sukhbir said, adding these stakeholders should have been taken on board. Ever since the ordinance was issued “we have been asking the government not to press with it and not to bring this bill. But our voice was not heeded to, he said.

The party has three members in the Rajya Sabha — Naresh Gujral, Balwinder Singh Bhunder and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa. Dhindsa is now a rebel Akali leader. He had floated another political outfit in July this year. Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, along with his son and former state finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa, was expelled from the SAD in February this year allegedly for anti-party activities.

Farmers across Punjab have been holding agitations and road blocks over the past few days against the bills that many have termed as ‘anti-farmer’ as they will leave them to the fate of market forces.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had said on Tuesday the introduction of the farm bills in Parliament by the Centre had “totally exposed" the SAD’s “pretence" of protecting the interests of farmers of the state.