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Published On: Sat, Sep 26th, 2020

BJP’s oldest ally Shiromani Akali Dal quits NDA over farm Bills

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927618-sad-bjpNEW DELHI : Amid growing protests across states over the recently passed Farm Bills in the Parliament, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the oldest ally of the saffron BJP, on Saturday has decided to pull out of BJP-led NDA alliance.
SAD was one of the oldest allies of the BJP and has supported it on loads of issues. However, the difference between the two sides had increased over the three farm bills — Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020; Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 — which were passed by the Parliament this month.
‘Because of the centre’s stubborn refusal to give statutory legislative guarantees to protect assured marketing of farmers crops on MSP and its continued insensitivity to Punjabi & Sikh issues, we quit the National Democratic Alliance’ said SAD.

Earlier in the day, Sukhbir Singh Badal demanded that the Punjab government immediately bring an ordinance to declare the entire state as an agriculture market to thwart the implementation of the Centre’s farm legislation.

“The highest decision-making body of the Shiromani Akali Dal core committee at its emergency meeting here tonight decided unanimously to pull out of the BJP -led NDA alliance,” Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said in Chandigarh, calling the bills “lethal and disastrous” for its key voter base of farmers.

He said the decision to quit the NDA was taken “because of the centre’s stubborn refusal to give statutory legislative guarantees to protect assured marketing of farmers crops on MSP (Minimum Support Price) and its continued insensitivity to Punjabi and Sikh issues like excluding Punjabi language as official language in Jammu and Kashmir.”
With this, the SAD became the third major NDA member to pull out of the grouping after the Shiv Sena and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).Badal
Mr Badal said the Akalis will continue to stand by its core principles of peace, communal harmony and guard the interest of Punjab and Punjabis and Sikhs and farmers in particular. The decision has been taken in consultation with the people of Punjab, especially party workers and farmers, he added.
The party, which initially supported the bills before realising the extent of discontent, counts a vast swathe of its voter base in farmers in Punjab who have vehemently opposed the new laws.
Farmers fear the laws will end the price support system or MSP and drive the entry of private players who, they say, will put small and marginal farmers at risk. Mr Badal’s wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal had resigned as a union minister in protest last week as the bills were pushed through parliament amid a huge outcry by the opposition and a contentious voice vote.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has defended the bills as reforms to help rid India’s vast agriculture sector of antiquated laws and allow farmers to sell to institutional buyers and big retailers such as Walmart.
The government insists the new rules give farmers the option to sell their produce to private buyers while it would still purchase staples such as rice and wheat at guaranteed prices. But such assurances have failed to mollify farmers in Punjab and Haryana who took to the streets, blocking roads and railway tracks on Friday in a protest.
Badal said the SAD would continue to stand by its core principles of peace, communal harmony and guard the interests of Punjab and Punjabi in general, and Sikhs and farmers in particular. He added that the decision had been taken in consultation with the people of Punjab, especially party workers and farmers.
He also said that the Bills on agricultural marketing brought by the BJP-led government were lethal and disastrous for the already beleaguered farmers.
The three farm bills — the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 — were passed by Parliament during the recent monsoon session.

The Congress and other Opposition parties are vehemently opposed against these Bills, farmers across states but particularly those in Punjab and Haryana are agitating by disrupting railway services, among other things.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Friday accused the Opposition of “misleading” farmers and “using their shoulders to fire” at his government over the farm Bills for selfish political interests, and asserted that for the first time in decades, the Centre had framed laws that would benefit farmers and workers.
Earlier this evening, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had taunted the SAD, saying “the adamant refusal of the Akalis to quit the NDA coalition showed the extent of their greed and desperation to cling to power”.
(With Bureau Report from Chandigarh).

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