Shiromani Akali Dal president and MP Sukhbir Singh Badal Tuesday said the BJP had been cold-shouldering allies since it won a brute majority in 2019, and that from India-China standoff, to controversial legislation like the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the recent farm Bills, the Modi government didn’t take them into confidence.
However, he refused to comment on whether the BJP’s actions were a sign of its “arrogance”, saying, “I do not want to get into this… We still have personal relationships with them… The PM took certain very good decisions also.”
Warning the BJP of a fate similar to the Congress if it continues with its attitude towards regional allies, Badal said at an Idea Exchange session with The Indian Express, “The success of the country has been different voices of different regions being heard, and it is very important to have regional forces as part of the whole system. The minute you start dominating everything, you see things collapsing… We tried (till the end) to save this alliance.”
Badal said the SAD supported the BJP even when it had just two MPs in the Lok Sabha. “My father had a very good relationship with every BJP leadership. Even I had a very good relationship and still have personal relationships. But, yes there has been a change… In our case, we were never consulted on the farm Bills.”
The SAD quit the NDA while Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned as Union minister of state following the passing of the Bills, which has led to protests by farmers across Punjab.
Badal said the NDA hadn’t held a meeting in six years, since it first came to power in 2014. “I don’t remember them calling the Akali Dal leadership, the Shiv Sena leadership (which parted ways earlier). (No discussions have been held on) How to take the alliance forward, what issues we have, how do we solve them… Even when the CAA was passed and the decision on Article 370 was taken, we were not a party to it,” Badal said.
Asked if the SAD could realign with the BJP in the future, Badal categorically said “no”. On his assertion earlier that the SAD-BJP alliance was needed for peace and communal harmony in Punjab, he said, “The Congress we felt has ruined this nation… From Emergency to other areas, the attack on the Golden Temple, whatever happened in Punjab, they were the root cause of the problems for us. So we formed the alliance … My father is considered the most moderate Sikh leader ever and we have always fought for harmony, and that is why there was a slogan of harmony.” The SAD-BJP had together done a lot of good work in Punjab, he added.
Speaking about the new farm laws, Badal said, “These are not related to farmers alone. The farmer is connected to the arhtiya (commission agent), who is a part and parcel of his family, and to the farm labourer and other employees, even the shopkeepers… And in Punjab, every inch of land is agriculture and based on agriculture, and all these years since Independence, we have developed one of the best infrastructures so that we can feed the nation.”
Calling the farm laws “populist”, Badal said, “They may be good for some other states, I don’t know. They are not good for our state… And if you look at it, a majority of the laws are made keeping in mind Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, from where a maximum chunk of the MPs come… Has a law ever been made for Nagaland or the Northeast? Punjab has only 13 people (MPs).”
On a question on Anandpur Sahib resolution dating back to 1973, Badal, underlining that federalism be strengthened and states be given more autonomy, said, “That time everyone thought we are anti-nationals. Today every state is asking for the same thing.”
On Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s remarks that Pakistan agency ISI may take advantage of the unrest caused by the farm laws, Badal said, “Yes we are a border state… that does not mean the ISI can take advantage of everything. People of Punjab want peace. Terrorism can only flourish when it has grounds… Hindus have been visiting Golden Temples and Sikhs visit temples.”
Badal was speaking at the Idea Exchange, a series of discussions with people at the centre of change.
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