Agri-Bills: SAD stood on the right side of the line, says Parkash Singh Badal

We tried to act as a bridge to find an amicable way to accommodate farmers’ interests, says ex-Punjab Chief Minister

Updated - September 19, 2020 08:32 pm IST

Published - September 19, 2020 08:27 pm IST - CHANDIGARH

Former Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal

Former Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal

After Harsimrat Kaur Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal, one of the oldest alliance partners of the NDA, stepped down as Minster from the Union Cabinet in protest against the Centre’s three agriculture sector Bills, former Punjab Chief Minister and SAD patron Parkash Singh Badal on Saturday said the party had tried to act as a bridge to find an amicable way to accommodate farmers’ interests, but when that didn’t seem possible, and a line had to be drawn, it stood on the right side of the line.

Mr. Badal described the party’s decision to pull out of the Union government to fight alongside the farmers as “a proud and landmark moment in the party’s long history of standing up for the principles and of always being on the side of the people”.

The Hindu Explains | Why are the Agriculture Bills being opposed?

Mr. Badal said the legislation on the marketing of the farmers’ produce needed wider consultations, especially with the stakeholders, the farmers and with parties like SAD. The party tried to convey the sentiments of the farmers to the Union government and also tried its best to persuade it to refer the legislation to an all-party select committee of MPs for wider consultations with the farmers.

“The party tried to act as a bridge to find an amicable way to accommodate the farmers’ interests. But I am glad that when that did not seem possible, it did the only thing that its proud heritage demanded — quit the government. The SAD could never be a party to anything which harms the interests of the farmers.”

Mr. Badal said the farmers’ issue relates to the overall national interests. “Agriculture is the backbone of our economy. If farmers and agricultural economy suffers, the whole economy, including trade and industry will suffer too.”

The former Chief Minister said with the resignation of its sole representative in the Union Cabinet, SAD has demonstrated yet again that nothing is dearer to it than its principles and the interests of the people, especially the farmers, the farm labour and other poor classes who are toiling for their rights.

Senior party leader and former MP Prem Singh Chandumajra said it was unfortunate that even after expressing concern to the central leadership of the BJP, it did not address the issue.

Mr. Chandumajra said the Akali Dal had always raised the Sikh issues as a partner in the NDA government. “We were able to get the black list kept in Indian Missions abroad abolished, get the Kartarpur corridor opened and ensure the linkage of the holy towns of Sultanpur Lodhi, Goindwal Sahib and Tarn Taran with Sri Amritsar Sahib under the Jammu-Amritsar-Katra expressway project. We will not fail in our duty to farmers and will continue to strive to ensure justice for them and Punjab.”

He appealed to all political parties to join the struggle (sangharsh) against the bills even as he accused the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for backstabbing farmers by not opposing their passage in the Lok Sabha.

“All farmer organisations and political parties should support SAD in its ‘sangharsh’ against the Bills”, he said, adding that divisions in the past had led to the loss of the State’s river waters and its capital.

“We will not sit quiet. SAD was ready for a joint front [sanjha manch] to ensure justice for the farmers. The Congress and the AAP should stop trying to deceive farmers by playing a double game... Had they insisted on a division of votes on the Bill seeking amendments in the Essential Commodities Act, the BJP might have been forced to postpone tabling of the Bills,” he said.

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