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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Punjab: Sukhbir’s ‘Gall Punjab Di’ rally hits a farm laws-related bump as BKU leaders confront him

Sukhbir had faced protests from farmers on Wednesday as well in Zira, but had brushed the agitators aside by dubbing them as members of the Congress, sent by local MLA Kulbir Singh Zira to create unrest.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana |
Updated: August 20, 2021 8:47:11 am
Sukhbir Singh Badal, Shiromani Akali Dal Sukhbir Singh Badal, farm laws, BKU, Punjab news, Indian express, Indian express newsShiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President, Sukhbir Singh Badal. (File)

Day two of SAD’s “Gall Punjab Di” poll outreach programme on Thursday saw its party chief, Sukhbir Singh Badal, being stopped and grilled by protesting farmers owing allegiance to Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Dakaunda, in Guru Har Sahai constituency of Ferozepur district on Thursday.

Incidentally, Sukhbir had faced protests from farmers on Wednesday as well in Zira, but had brushed the agitators aside by dubbing them as members of the Congress, sent by local MLA Kulbir Singh Zira to create unrest. On Thursday, however, there was no escaping for the SAD chief as the farmers asked him pointed questions on the new farm laws, and later said they were not satisfied by Sukhbir’s elusive replies.

BKU Dakaunda leader, Harnek Mehma, who questioned the SAD President on Thursday, told The Indian Express, “A day before he had dubbed our group members as Congress workers in Zira. So, today (Thursday) we planned to confront him with direct questions so that he doesn’t run away by issuing statements that we were not farmers. As per the call of Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), we are bound to ask questions to every political party’s representatives while we protest against the BJP leaders, Hence, we confronted the SAD President, but were left dissatisfied with most of his answers.” Mehma said. He added that Sukhbir had come to seek votes, hence the farmers had every right to question him so that they could decide whether they should vote for his party or not.

Mehma said, “He [Sukhbir Badal] was not very clear about ending privatisation. He did not give any satisfactory reply over allegations of rising corruption in government offices that started during the SAD-BJP regime and continues to date. His casual approach over corruption in government offices showed that graft had become a part of our lives and we have to live with it.”

He added that when the group asked him how his MLAs, who were normal farmers, had assets worth crores, Sukhbir simply said, “I will make sure that all our MLAs work in an upright manner if we are voted to power”.

“We asked him whether his government will press upon the Central government to come out of WTO, and he evaded a reply on this issue.”
Mehma said that Sukhbir was not even clear about cancelling the Power Purchase Agreements signed during the SAD-BJP tenure with private thermal companies. Sukhbir said, “The PPAs done in Punjab at the rate of Rs 2.86 per unit was the cheapest at that time. Moreover, power delivery to the government was secured and this is the reason why Punjab became power surplus”.

Contacted, Sukhbir claimed that during his interaction with the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda) activists at Guru Har Sahai, he had asserted that the SAD was the only party that had stood up against the Centre by voting against the three black laws in the Parliament, even as both the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chose to abstain from voting.

He added that he stopped his vehicle and went up to the BKU (Dakaunda) activists and explained to them how the SAD had done its utmost to thwart the passage of the three farm laws in the Parliament last year and how it continued to raise the voice of farmers during the last session. He even stated that he patiently took questions from the BKU representative and answered each one of them to dispel all their doubts.

Talking about farm laws, Sukhbir Badal said it was a fact that Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, was part of the seven-member committee of CMs who framed the three agricultural ordinances. He said the CM had also amended the APMC Act to make it in conformance with the three new farm laws passed by the government.

Badal said he told the BKU representatives that the moment the three ordinances were presented in the Parliament, the then Union minister, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, had protested against the same. “The farmer leaders told us to vote against the three bills and specifically said that we should not stage a walkout or abstain from voting. We conveyed the reservations of the farming community to the Centre and also requested that the ordinances be kept in abeyance by referring them to a Select Committee. But the government did not heed this advice. Subsequently, Harsimrat Badal and I were the only two MPs who voted against the Bills in the Lok Sabha even as the Congress and AAP abstained. Following this Harsimrat Badal also resigned from the cabinet and the SAD quit the NDA alliance. Former Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal, also called me and said `that we cannot remain in any alliance which takes decisions against the interests of our anndatas.”

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