In a setback to the Modi government, Shiromani Akali Dal’s Harsimrat Kaur has resigned from the Modi government in protest against the recent three farm bills tabled in Parliament by the Centre for passage. Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal announced in this in Lok Sabha on Thursday.
Sukhbir Badal, who is the party chief and also is Ms Kaur’s husband, has however said that the Akali Dal wIll continue to support the BJP but oppose the farm bills.
In his speech during a discussion on two of the farm bills -- the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, Sukhbir Singh Badal said the proposed laws will "destroy" the 50 years of hard work put in by successive Punjab governments and farmers to build the agriculture sector.
He recalled Punjab's massive contribution in making India self-sufficient in food grain production as he vehemently opposed the bills. "I want to make an announcement that our Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal will resign from Cabinet," he said in concluding remarks.
Badal also refuted suggestions that his party initially supported three ordinances, which these bills seek to replace, and asserted that Harsimrat Kaur Badal had expressed her concerns in the Cabinet meeting and also wrote to Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, highlighting "flaws" in the proposed legislation. Hitting out at the Congress, which has sought to corner the SAD over these bills, he accused the party of "double speak" on the issue and noted that the abolition of the APMC Act was part of its manifesto in both the 2019 Lok Sabha election and the 2017 Assembly polls in Punjab.
The Shiromani Akali Dal is the BJP's oldest ally and has stood by the saffron party through thick and thin. The SAD president said the three bills, including the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, which has been passed by Lok Sabha, are going to affect 20 lakh farmers and 15-20 lakh farm labourers in Punjab alone.
The state with 2.5 per cent of the country's landmass produces nearly 50 per cent of food grains for the country, he added. Punjab's mandi system is the best in the world with a network of 1,900 setups across 12,000 villages, he said. Earlier during the discussion, Ravneet Singh 'Bittu' of the Congress, who is from Punjab, took a a swipe at the SAD, demanding proof that Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the Cabinet Minister of Food Processing Industries, had opposed the three farm sector ordinances.
(With PTI inputs)