Akalis leave NDA; Sukhbir urges parties to unite against Centre
Sukhbir Singh Badal, the President of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), wants all political parties and farmer organizations to protest against the BJP-led Centre and force it to roll back three controversial farm Bills, that have triggered agitation. The younger Badal made these remarks after Akalis, one of the oldest allies of BJP, broke ties with the saffron party late last evening. Here's what happened.
Context: BJP pushed three farm Bills, Akalis demanded rethink
The relationship between Akalis and BJP were strained after the latter introduced agriculture reforms in the recently-concluded Monsoon Session, which the former claimed would make Farmers dependent on bigger private players. BJP pushed its weight behind the Bills, saying it will free farmers from constraints, and eventually managed to pass two of them in the Rajya Sabha They are now awaiting the President's approval.
What are the Bills that cost BJP its oldest friend?
The Bills at the center of this huge row are — The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
Last week, Harsimrat resigned, said BJP didn't address concerns
Before the Akalis walked out of NDA, Sukhbir's wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal left the Union Cabinet. She was the lone SAD member to be a part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet and was handling the Ministry of Food Processing Industries. In interviews after her resignation, Harsimrat said she voiced her concerns regarding the Bills but BJP didn't pay heed.
Centre's decision doesn't benefit anyone, claimed SAD while snapping association
Yesterday, SAD said the Centre's stubbornness drove their decision. "The government's decision on the farm Bills is deeply injurious to the interests not only of farmers, but also the khet mazdoor (farm labor), traders, arthiyas (commission agents), and the Dalits who depend on the well-being of agriculture," SAD said, adding that Centre is also insensitive toward other issues of Sikhs.
SAD wasn't opposed to Bills until farmers intensified protests
Although the Akalis' exit seemed imminent after Harsimrat's resignation, the party kept its cards close to the chest. Interestingly, SAD supported the Bills initially, when it was unaware of the magnitude of the protests. But as it faced a formidable Congress in agriculture-dominated Punjab, the party sided with the farmers, grew more critical of BJP, in a clear attempt to gain lost political ground.
Badal said his party always wants dignity for Sikhs
"SAD was the oldest ally of the BJP... the main driving principle behind the alliance was SAD's commitment to peace and communal harmony in Punjab and restoration of pride and dignity of Punjabis in general, and Sikhs in particular in the country," Badal added.
Now, Sukhbir wants Captain to declare Punjab "agriculture market"
Upping his attack on the Centre, Sukhbir claimed now wasn't the time for petty politics, but for parties to unite against BJP. He also said the state government, led by Congress' Captain Amarinder Singh, must immediately promulgate an Ordinance declaring Punjab an agriculture market (mandi). This is a way to ensure Centre's laws don't apply to Punjab, he explained.
This isn't the NDA Vajpayee and Badal Sahab envisioned: Harsimrat
On the decision of her party, Harsimrat said this NDA is not what Badal Sahab (patriarch Parkash Singh Badal) and late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee envisioned. Badal Sr. has many times described his party's relationship with BJP as "nau-maas da rishta (nail-and-flesh ties)." She lamented that BJP turned a deaf ear to its oldest partner and ignored the concerns of farmers.
Harsimrat is sad the federal government didn't change its stance
"BJP workers have been wanting to break the alliance"
In the first reaction to development, BJP Punjab President Ashwani Sharma said SAD is an independent party. "BJP workers have been saying for long that it's time to break the alliance with Akali Dal. Now Akali Dal has announced it is breaking the alliance. We will hold a press conference on this issue," he said. Separately, Captain opined that SAD had no other option.