Targeting SAD president Sukhbir Badal and his wife and Union Cabinet Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Congress, AAP and SAD (Democratic) have demanded that the latter resign from the Union Cabinet as her position is “untenable” following her party’s stance against the agriculture Bills.
Leader of Opposition and senior AAP leader Harpal Singh Cheema said it was clear that SAD has been forced to speak out against the Bills because of the outrage against them.
“The Badals have tried to fool the farmers by running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. If the Akalis were serious about voting against the Bills in Lok Sabha they should have sought division of votes so that there was proof of their voting against it. Why did Harsimrat Badal not speak against it in the House when her husband and the party president claim to have done so?” he asked.
The LoP said the Akalis “have lost their core constituency of farmers who always voted for the party due to their ambivalence on agriculture legislations”. “Now that they have suffered a setback politically due to the double game they played, they are trying to portray that they are against the bills. Harsimrat Badal has no moral right to continue in Cabinet after her party’s stance,” he said.
Senior SAD (Democratic) leader Bir Devinder Singh said the position of Harsimrat has become “ridiculously untenable” after SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal belatedly opposed and expressed his opinion against all the three Bills introduced in Parliament.
“The mysterious absence of Harsimrat Kaur Badal from Parliament at the crucial time of the introduction of the bills, and also when Sukhbir Singh Badal opposed the Essential Commodity (Amendment) Bill, 2020, with a voice vote yesterday raises questions. Political wisdom demands that she should have resigned immediately from Cabinet when her party has taken a definite view to oppose the Bills,” he said.
Bir Devinder said it is “patently ridiculous” on the part of Sukhbir to say on the floor of the Parliament, that he has not even read any of the three bills. “That perhaps speaks volumes of his bereft understanding regarding the basic knowledge of parliamentary practice and procedures. He should know that the bills introduced in Parliament are exactly the same pieces of proposed legislation for which he and his party have been widely boasting and campaigning more than three months, misleading Punjab farmers, maintaining that they are are farmers friendly ordinances,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh also attacked the position of the Akalis regarding the bills. “Isn’t Harsimrat Badal a member of Cabinet? Why didn’t she protest there and why doesn’t she speak outside either on the issue? What did the Akali Dal do in Assembly?” he asked, terming their U-turn “a total farce and nothing more than a face-saver”.
Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said the SAD should immediately break all ties with BJP if they were serious about opposing the agriculture bills.
“If you are genuinely sympathetic towards the interests of farmers and Punjab, then immediately break the party’s ties with the Modi government at the Centre,” Sidhu told Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Sidhu also accused Sukhbir of adopting “double standards” over the issue of farm ordinances. A “few minutes of utterance” of Sukhbir Badal in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday against the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill was “meaningless” as long as the SAD is a partner in the Modi government. “The tragedy of the Akali Dal is that it wants to make its mark among farmers and at the same time, it also does not want to give up a ministry in the central government,” said the minister.
The Akali Dal has taken this step following “behind-the-scene agreement” with the BJP under which it was allowed to oppose these ordinances just to be able to “pretend as pro-farmer” and the saffron party would “ignore” its protests in the House, alleged Sidhu.
Sidhu said Sukhbir’s claim that Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal had expressed reservations against these ordinances was “totally wrong”.
The SAD, meanwhile, accused Capt Amarinder Singh of “being directly responsible for amending” the state Agriculture Produce Marketing (APMC) Act in 2017, immediately after coming to power in the state and including all the provisions he was now making “fake protests against”.
Senior party leader Dr D S Cheema said that the chief minister also formed the Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia committee which appreciated the 2017 amendments besides speaking up for corporatisation of agriculture. “The chief minister was also a member of the high powered committee of CMs which approved the ordinances and state Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal even attended a meeting in this regard in Mumbai,” he added.
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