In a statement that is being interpreted differently by political watchers, former Cabinet Minister Najvot Singh Sidhu Sunday urged the Punjab government to “take responsibility of its farmers” and suggested that it start procuring the produce at the minimum support price (MSP).
“Punjab government should take responsibility (of farmers). ‘Sarkaaran pith dikhaan nu ni hundian, na sarkaaran dikhaavey layi hundian, sarkaaran hal vastey hundian ne, sarkaaran hal den (Governments are not meant to turn their backs (on people) in time of need… they are meant to find solutions, government should give solution),” said Sidhu.
The Amritsar East MLA was addressing a public meeting before Congress kicked off its Kheti Bachao Yatra led by party leader Rahul Gandhi to protest the Centre’s new farm laws. Gandhi, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, state party chief Sunil Jakhar and All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in-charge of Punjab affairs Harish Rawat were present on the stage.
Sidhu’s participation in the rally came three days Rawat met him at his residence in Amritsar. Sidhu, who had been at loggerheads with the CM, had stayed away from all Congress activities ever since he resigned as cabinet minister last year.
Sidhu said that the Punjab farmers “fed the entire country for years and now this thankless central government” is trying to impose these “black laws” on them. “These laws are a direct attack on our federal structure. This government led by Modi wants to handover everything to punjipatis. The system that failed in America and Europe is being imposed on us now. At places where there are no mandis, farmers are forced to work as laborers. That’s what they want to happen in Punjab,” Sidhu said.
Continuing to attack the corporates, he said “Ambanis and Adanis will come with an army of lawyers but we will fight for the farmers till end”.
“Iss desh nu punjipati chala rahe ne, kisan ko dete ho to usey kehte ho subsidy aur ameeron ko 5 lakh crore, 10 lakh crore thama dete ho usey kehte ho incentive, ditta ki tussi kisaana nu…Ambani Adani assi Punjab ch vadan nahi dene (This country is being run by the rich. When this government gives to the poor farmers, they call it subsidy and when they waive off Rs 5 lakh crore and 10 lakh crore of the rich, they call it incentive. What exactly have you given to the farmers till now? We are not going to allow Ambanis and Adanis to enter Punjab),” he added.
Sidhu said AICC chief Sonia Gandhi said has asked the CMs of all Congress ruled states to formulate their own laws under Article 254 of Indian Constitution and to bypass the farm laws enacted by the Centre and “Punjab should do the same”.
“The biggest question, I ask in front of Rahul Gandhi is, that what are we going to do if Centre doesn’t change the laws? Why farmers of Punjab should not get their own rights in their state? Why Punjab government can’t take their responsibility? Punjab government should provide them storage and other facilities. It should stand on its own feet for its farmers and should be self-dependent to give them everything,” he said.
The MLA further said that ‘Punjab Ekta, Kisan Ekta‘ (United Punjab, United farmers) is not just a slogan but a directive to lead this fight. “We are united, we have to stand with farmers, no one can divide Punjab on religious or any other lines,” said Sidhu, adding that he has submitted his suggestions to CM to fight against three laws.
Sidhu spoke at Badni Kalan, which was the first public meeting of the day. In two other rallies- at village Chakar and Jattpura of Ludhiana — he wasn’t given time to speak. The other party MLAs too were not allowed to speak.
During his nearly 15-minute address at Badni Kalan, he was interrupted by Cabinet Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa asking him to wind up early. Sidhu asked Randhawa to let him speak and said, ‘Pehlan hi baitheye rakheya (Already I was made to sit quiet)”.
At Chakar, rally moderator and Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu, introducing the cricketer-turned politician on stage, said, Sidhu ji, main samajhdaan eh haley vi chaukey chakkey laune bhulley ni, tey bat ghumaun di aadat hai haley vi jo jaa nahi rahi (Sidhu ji still hasn’t forgotten to hit fours and sixes. He is still habitual of swinging the bat, a habit he is finding hard to leave)”.
Sources said that after Sidhu wasn’t given time to speak at Chakar, he went towards his car to leave the venue but Rawat again placated him and managed to get him back
At Jattpura, Finance Minister Manpreet Badal, in his address, mentioned that though Sidhu could not speak here, he and entire Punjab were fans of his oratory skills.
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