'Tried to Convince Centre But Was Ignored': Akali Dal Breaks Ties with NDA Over Farm Bills
File photo of Akali Dal leader Harsimrat Kaur attending a press conference with party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal. (PTI)
Shiromani Akali Dal on Saturday broke ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party, days after Harsimrat Kaur resigned from the Union cabinet over contentious farm bills.
"Recently Centre introduced three agriculture bills, which directly affect farmers, labourers and local traders. The ordinances hit the argricultural sector. I spoke in Parliament that we were not taken into confidence over farm bills by the Centre," SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal.
He further said that in the last two months, SAD had been trying to attract Centre's attention to the farmers' issues and the impact of the Bills but their efforts went in vain. "We were ignored and Harsimrat Kaur Badal immediately resigned as Union Minister in protest," the party president said.
Harsimrat resigned on September 17 soon after her husband and SAD president strongly opposed the bills in Lok Sabha, claiming these proposed legislations will "destroy" the agriculture sector in Punjab, and announced that Harsimrat will quit the government in protest against these three bills.
Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who first became Union Minister for Food Processing in 2014 and retained the portfolio in the second term of the BJP-led NDA government starting 2019, said she kept on pleading with the government not to move ahead with these bills without taking farmers on board.
SAD voted against the three bills — Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, which were passed by voice vote in Lok Sabha.
Large-scale protests by farmers in Punjab against the bills have put the regional party, which draws its support mainly from peasants, under pressure, culminating in the resignation of its only representative in the government.
BJP and SAD have been seen as natural allies which date back to the days of Jan Sangh, the precursor of the saffron party. Both parties have been contesting elections in alliance since 1997.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh termed the Akali's decision to quit the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as nothing more than a desperate case of political compulsion for the Badals, who were effectively left with no other option after the BJP's public criticism of SAD over the farm bills.
"The Akalis had no choice before them since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had already made it clear that it held SAD responsible for failing to convince the farmers about the goodness of the farm Bills.
"The SAD decision to quit the NDA was just the culmination of their saga of lies and deception, which eventually led to them being cornered on the issue of the Bills," said the Chief Minister, adding that Sukhbir Singh Badal was virtually caught between the devil and the deep sea after his initial unprincipled stand on the farm ordinances, followed by the sudden U-turn in the face of farmers' protests.