Updated: September 27, 2020 8:08:36 am
As farmer protests continue to roil Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal, one of the oldest allies of the BJP and a founding member of the NDA, announced Saturday it was exiting the ruling coalition at the Centre in protest against the farm legislation pushed through Parliament by the Modi government.
SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, whose wife and party leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned in protest from the Union Council of Ministers nine days ago, told reporters: “The government’s decision on the farm Bills is deeply injurious to the interests not only of farmers, but also the khet mazdoor (farm labour), traders, arthiyas (commission agents) and the Dalits who depend on the well-being of agriculture.”
“The highest decision-making body of the Shiromani Akali Dal, the core committee, at its emergency meeting here tonight, unanimously decided to pull out of the BJP-led NDA because of the central government’s stubborn refusal to give statutory legislative guarantees to protect assured marketing of farmer crop at the minimum support price (MSP), and its continued insensitivity to Punjabi and Sikh issues like excluding Punjabi language as the official language in Jammu and Kashmir,” the SAD said in a statement.
Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is Lok Sabha MP from Ferozepur, said, “SAD was the oldest ally of the BJP… the main driving principle behind the alliance was SAD’s commitment to peace and communal harmony in Punjab and restoration of pride and dignity of Punjabis in general, and Sikhs in particular in the country.”
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The SAD’S decision to exit the NDA leaves the BJP friendless in Punjab, and also forces partners in other states to allay fears over the farm legislation. For them, the task is cut out: farmers need to be convinced that the new measures will not just fetch them the right price for their produce, but also reform their sector.
The SAD decision to the leave the NDA came a day after Punjab observed a bandh in protests against the farm legislations.
SAD patriarch Parkash Singh Badal, a founding member of the NDA, always referred to his party’s ties with the BJP as ‘nau-maas da rishta’ (nail-and-flesh ties).
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In first remarks on the SAD decision, Punjab BJP president Ashwani Sharma said: “Akali Dal is an independent party and is free to take any decision. BJP workers have been saying for long that it’s time to break the alliance with Akali Dal. Now Akali Dal has announced it is breaking the alliance. We will hold a press conference on this issue.”
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh called the SAD decision to quit the NDA “a desperate case of political compulsion for the Badals who were effectively left with no other option after the BJP’s public criticism of the SAD over the farm Bills.”
On Friday, Punjab observed a ‘chakka jam’ in protests against the farm Bills and the manner in which the Bills were passed in Parliament. The SAD, like the Opposition parties, wanted the Bills sent to a select committee and had even urged the President not to give assent to the Bills.
Earlier this week, SAD core committee member Baldev Singh Mann told The Sunday Express: “My personal view is that this alliance can no longer be there. People will not accept us (SAD) in case we continue to have an alliance with the BJP, especially when all this has happened and Harsimrat Badal has resigned from the Union Cabinet over the issue.”
“How can the alliance remain when the BJP is riding roughshod over us to clear the controversial Bills,” Mann said.
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