Taking the fight against the farm laws to Delhi, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday staged a dharna at Jantar Mantar to highlight “Centre’s step motherly” treatment towards Punjab.
Amarinder accused the Centre of failing to pay Punjab its GST dues and cutting off access to the Disaster Relief Fund. “We don’t have money, our coal stocks are over,” he said. “How can we survive in this situation?”
Amarinder began the day by paying his respects to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat. The Chief Minister’s office said they have changed the venue for the relay dharna from Rajghat to Jantar Mantar after Delhi police cited security reasons.
He later proceeded to Jantar Mantar to kickstart the dharna along with Punjab Congress MPs and MLAs. He was joined by Lok Insaf Party legislator Simranjit Singh Bains, Punjabi Ekta Party MLA Sukhpal Khaira, and Shiromani Akali Dal (Democratic) MLA Parminder Singh Dhindsa. The Aam Admi Party (AAP), Amarinder said, had been pressurised not to join the relay dharna as their government in Delhi had not passed amendment bills to protect the farmers.
Speaking to reporters, the Chief Minister recalled that during Dr Manmohan Singh’s tenure, he had once asked him why he was giving so much to the Akalis in Punjab, and the then Prime Minister had responded that he must treat everyone equally. Amarinder said he hoped the present government at the Centre will also adopt a similar approach towards the state government.
Replying to a question on Akalis, the Chief Minister said they had indulged in a farcical drama over the farm laws to protect their political interests. They will be back with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) before the next Assembly elections in Punjab, he predicted.
Earlier in the day, a few Congress MLAs including Navjot Singh Sidhu were stopped by police at the Delhi border. Sidhu, who was also accompanying MLAs Raja Warring, Avtar Henry Junior, Rajinder Beri, Kaka Lohgarh, and Surjit Singh Dhiman, posted on Facebook a video of him arguing with the Delhi police.
Sidhu said: “This is democracy. We are representatives of 10 lakh people. But they do not understand that we will hit back as much as we are suppressed.”
The Delhi Police later escorted Sidhu and other MLAs till Punjab Bhawan, where the party MLAs have assembled to participate in the dharna.
Sidhu, who has been at odds with Amarinder Singh, said that he supports the Chief Minister on the farmers issue and that he would not say anything that would reflect poorly on the party.