CHANDIGARH: Faced with the increasing unrest among farmers in Punjab which is Shiromani Akali Dal's (SAD) core constituency and intense pressure from within the party, the Union Minister for Food Processing Harshimrat Kaur Badal today resigned from the union cabinet.
SAD is the oldest ally of the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and part of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government.
Sources said the SAD, a constituent of the NDA will remain part of the coalition. But it cannot be part of a government that is set to pass an anti-farmer bill.
Confirming that Harsimrat has resigned from the union cabinet, Jangveer Singh, media adviser to the SAD president, said, "she has resigned as the apprehensions raised by farmers against the three farm bill tabled in the parliament, have not been addressed by the union government despite repeated requests. These bills were anti-farmer and death knell for the farmers and farm labour.’’
"I have resigned from Union Cabinet in protest against anti-farmer ordinances and legislation. Proud to stand with farmers as their daughter & sister,’’ she tweeted.
I have resigned from Union Cabinet in protest against anti-farmer ordinances and legislation. Proud to stand with farmers as their daughter & sister.— Harsimrat Kaur Badal (@HarsimratBadal_) September 17, 2020
Earlier in the day, speaking on the bills in the parliament, Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal announced in the House that his party’s member in the cabinet, Harsimrat Badal, would resign if the bills were passed.
Harsimrat and her husband SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal are the only two party MPs in the Lok Sabha.
In the upper house, Balwinder Singh Bhunder and Naresh Gujral are the SAD MPs, while the third MP Sukhdev Singh Dindsa who formed his own party had told the chairman of the Rajya Sabha to consider him independent.
A system of mandis which was established in both Punjab and Haryana had received flak from farmer bodies and political parties fearing that the government could abolish the systems of minimum support price (MSP).
The SAD had earlier urged the Centre to not present the three ordinances for approval in Parliament before the reservations of Punjab's farmers were addressed as this decision was taken in the core committee meeting of the party on Saturday.
Sukhbir had already claimed that Harsimrat had expressed her reservations when the matter was taken up during a cabinet meeting.
Sources said there was opposition within the SAD on the support given to the ordinances by the party leadership.
The Akali leadership was under pressure to take a stand in favour of the farmers on the issue as the core vote bank of the party is farmers and the farmers' organizations had already announced that if the MPs who do not vote against these ordinances and abstain will not be allowed to enter the state.
Sukhbir along with senior leader Prem Singh Chandumajra had recently met Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala who is from the JJP and tried to prepare a joint strategy against the ordinances. They had also met leaders of the Jat Mahasabha of Haryana.
Besides farm organisations, the Congress and AAP are already against the ordinances.
Farmer & SAD are synonymous as party is inspired by egalitarian vision of the founder of Sikh faith, Shri Guru Nanak Dev who spent nearly 20 years working in his fields at Kartarpur Sahib as a humble farmer. It's enough to show what farmers mean to SAD: Harsimrat Kaur Badal to PM https://t.co/uVbIeA0Q5n pic.twitter.com/OGqIeiwj3M— ANI (@ANI) September 17, 2020
The union government had introduced the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion And Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill in Parliament on Monday to replace ordinances promulgated earlier.
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh said Harsimrat’s decision to quit the Union Cabinet was another in the long chain of theatrics being enacted by the SAD, which has still not quit the ruling coalition despite the slap on their face by the central government in the form of the Farm Bills.
Questioning Shiromani Akali Dal’s decision to continue to remain a part of the BJP-led NDA coalition at the centre, he said even Harsimrat’s resignation was nothing more than a gimmick to befool the farmers of Punjab. "But they (the Akalis) will not succeed in misleading the farmer organisations," he said, calling it a case of "too little, too late."