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Akalis feared loss of core ‘farmer’ vote bank

Harsimrat Kaur Badal at Parliament House in New Delhi. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

After flip-flops on the Centre’s agriculture sector legislations, the Shiromani Akali Dal’s decision to quit the government is being seen as a last-ditch effort of the party to save its core “farmer” vote bank, political analysts said on Friday.

They feel that the entire episode shows the disconnect of the Akali Dal with the masses, and for the party, it would be a Herculean task to win back the trust of its core vote bank.

“The SAD extended support to the ordinances, and it was only after watching farmers’ anguish over the ordinances that it took a U-turn on the issue. Resignation of Ms. Harsimrat Kaur Badal seems to a damage-control exercise to appease farmers, who had been their core vote bank. But it may not be an easy task. Farmers realise that it was after their protests and agitations that the Akali Dal took a decision to back them, until then, the party was supporting the farm sector ordinances,” said Ronki Ram, Shaheed Bhaghat Singh Chair professor of political science at Panjab University.

“In the backdrop of this entire episode, the farmers would now be apprehensive of expectations from the Akali Dal. What is the guarantee that in future the party will take up and address their [farmers’] concerns on its own? - the Akali Dal will find it difficult to convince farmers on this question that they have been pointing in the past few days. It won’t be an easy task for the Akali Dal to regain trust,” he observed.

Another possible reason behind the resignation has been the pressure from within the party. “Many party leaders, including seniors P.S. Chandumajra and former Minister Sikander Singh Maluka had cautioned the party leadership on the issue. This pressure had also worked it seems,” Mr. Ram added.

Ashutosh Kumar, Professor of Political Science at Panjab University, said the entire episode showed the disconnect of the Akali Dal with common masses. “The Akali Dal leadership finally realised that they are in deep trouble of losing their vote bank. They claim themselves to be saviours of farmers, but after seeing farmers’ protests surrounding the agri-related Bills, the Akali Dal had to change their stance of supporting the Bills,” he noted. “It’s nothing but a face-saving act of the party,” he added.

Harsimrat’s letter

Ms. Harsimrat Badal in her resignation letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, wrote “In view of the decision of the Government of India to go ahead with the Bill on the issue of marketing of agricultural produce without addressing and removing the apprehensions of the farmers and the decision of my party, Shiromani Akali Dal not to be a part of anything that goes against the interests of the farmers, I find it impossible to continue to perform my duties as a minister in the Union Council of Ministers.”

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Printable version | Oct 31, 2020 2:09:19 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/akalis-feared-loss-of-core-farmer-vote-bank/article32642629.ece

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