While the opposition parties, except the BJP, voted in favour of Punjab government’s Bills to negate Centre’s farm laws and even accompanied CM Amarinder Singh to meet Punjab Governor VP Singh Badnore, Akali Dal and AAP began attacking the Bills as soon as the session got over.
The Congress has now accused both of trying to keep the BJP happy.
The Vidhan Sabha had unanimously passed four amendment Bills on Tuesday including the Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020; the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020, and the Code of Civil Procedure (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020.
The House presented a perfect picture of bonhomie on the day, but later, AAP and SAD rejected the Bills as the special session ended.
Sources in SAD said they had no option but to go with the government in the Assembly as they were already facing allegations of being in “cahoots” with BJP.
“Had we not gone with the government, the rival parties would have come hounding us that we did not support the farmers Bills. Not that we did not understand that these Bills do not mean anything unless the President gives his assent. In this case, this would not come and we are sure about it,” said a SAD leader requesting anonymity.
He added that there was a suggestion from some Akali leaders that they should seek time from the government to debate the Bills threadbare as the draft was not shared by the government before tabling these, but the suggestion was turned down.
“They would have accused us of being anti-farmer. While we are not. Hence, we went with the flow,” the Akali leader said, adding: “Our contention is that the government should have declared the entire state as principal mandi yard. This is in state’s domain. Why not start from there instead of amending Centre’s laws that means nothing for the farmers?”
The AAP has rejected the Bills stating that passing these Bills will not ensure MSP for the farmers. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has called the Bills “fake” and a “drama” as these would prove futile for the farmers.
AAP MLA and Leader of Opposition in Assembly, Harpal Singh Cheema, told The Indian Express that they supported the Bills in the Assembly as it took time for them to understand the reality of the Bills. “They handed us the draft at the last minute. It took time. After getting in touch with legal experts and applying my own understanding of the law, we realised that the Bills did not do anything to alleviate the suffering of the farmers.”
He added that even during the debate in the Assembly, he had told the CM that the government should ensure that their crops were lifted on MSP and the state made arrangements for the money.
“But the CM said it was not possible. I also said the if they would punish the private players for procuring below MSP and the government would not lift the crops, then where would the farmers go?”
Cheema questioned the drafting of the Bills saying that “these were poor examples of how the Bills have been drafted. The Supreme Court will require an hour to understand the Bills. Why would they spend so much of time?” asked Cheema, who is a qualified lawyer himself.
He said they had voted in favour of the Bills as “symbolism” for their support for the farmers. “The farmer organisations wanted the government to send a message to Government of India. So we were supportive of farmers’ contention,” he said.
While the SAD and AAP have had a “change of heart”, the Lok Insaf Party is still with the government on the issue. “We supported the government in the Assembly, and will support it outside also. We are with the farmers. The Bills may not prove fruitful but we are conveying a message strongly to the Centre that we will not get cowed down by their attack on federalism. We are strongly in favour of more powers to the states and with these laws, the Centre has axed the rights of the states. We stand strongly on this. But we do not support the CM on his appeal to the farmers to lift the protest dharnas,” said Simarjeet Singh Bains, president of LIP.
He added, “SAD chief Sukhbir Badal had a meeting with RSS chief at RSS headquarters in Nagpur. They had to change their stand. Kejriwal has always projected himself as the votary of federalism but what has happened to him now? I want to ask those leaders who sang paeans even in favour of CM’s green turban as support to farmers, changed after they came out of the Assembly. They should explain.”
With SAD and AAP changing stand, PPCC chief Sunil Jakhar offered an explanation.
“There are no surprises in SAD and AAP changing stand. Kejriwal, who is a puppet in the hands of Centre, may have pulled up his party MLAs after their voting in favour of the Bills. I cannot fathom why Akalis did it. They are keeping both the options open. In Assembly they support the Bills and outside they want to keep the BJP happy,” Jakhar said.
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