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Shiromani Akali Dal begins its consultation on future with NDA

Former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal | File   | Photo Credit: AKHILESH KUMAR

Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), whose lone representative in the Union Cabinet, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, quit over three farm-based Bills pushed by the NDA government, will be holding a video consult of its leaders on Friday, in order to decide on whether to continue in the NDA.

A SAD leader and former minister in the SAD-BJP government in Punjab told The Hindu that the consultation would not be the decisive factor in continuing with the alliance and that “feedback from our people in Punjab” would need to be taken, possibly once the Parliament session was done.

 

Speaking to The Hindu, Rajya Sabha MP from the party Naresh Gujral said that the decision was yet to be taken but that “the party is mindful of the fact that our Army is eyeball to eyeball with China on the northern and eastern borders” and that “Pakistan has been trying to foment trouble for India in Punjab.”

“We are mindful of the need to stand together and not undermine the government as it faces these challenges,” he said.

The SAD-BJP alliance has been one of the oldest and most durable in the NDA, with SAD leader Parkash Singh Badal considered a father figure to many leaders. Prime Minister Modi touched the senior leader’s feet before filing his nomination papers in Varanasi ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

More importantly, the alliance had been forged keeping in mind the militancy that had taken place in Punjab in the 1980s and early 1990s. The alliance of the SAD as a largely rural-based orthodox Sikh party, and the BJP that counts Hindutva as an ideological base would, it was hoped, bring social harmony among religious orthodoxies, which it did.

The farm Bills — The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreementon Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 — and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, have hit the SAD in its rural base, which is unsettled over what these changes could mean to incomes and corporate interference.

With polls due in Punjab in 2022, the SAD cannot afford an anti-farmer image, something party leaders said could have been ameliorated by adding that the system of fixing Minimum Support Prices by the government would be continued as a clause in the Bills.

After clearing the farm Bills in the Lok Sabha, the government has not listed them for the Rajya Sabha. Ms. Badal’s resignation has, however, been accepted. The question now remains on just how badly do the two old partners want to align their interests again.

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Printable version | Oct 31, 2020 6:53:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/shiromani-akali-dal-meeting-today-to-decide-on-whether-to-continue-in-nda/article32637518.ece

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