CHANDIGARH: The Shiromani Akali Dal on Saturday said it is "unfortunate" that even after the party conveyed its concerns to the BJP leadership on the three agricultural reform bills, the issue wasn't addressed, and appealed to all political parties to join its "struggle" against the legislations.
The SAD said it will "not sit quietly" and take this fight to its "logical conclusion".
It also castigated the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for allegedly betraying farmers by not opposing the passage of the bills in Lok Sabha.
One of the oldest allies of the ruling BJP, the SAD has come out strongly against the three bills which are meant to deregulate the sale of farm produce.
Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the lone SAD member in the Modi government, resigned as Union minister on Thursday in protest against the bills.
Addressing a virtual press conference here, senior SAD leader and former MP Prem Singh Chandumajra said, "It is unfortunate that even after we expressed our concerns to the BJP and conveyed the sentiments of the farming community to its central leadership, it did not address the issue."
"We, however, will not fail in our duty towards farmers and will continue to strive to ensure justice for them and Punjab," he said.
Chandumajra appealed to all political parties to form "ek soch aur ek manch" (one thinking and one forum) on the issue, saying Punjab could not afford any division on it.
"All farmer organisations and political parties should support the SAD in its struggle against the bills," he said, adding that in the past, divisions have led to the loss of the state's river waters and its capital.
Chandumajra said the SAD will come out with a party programme against the farm bills and fight to the finish.
"It is very clear that the party will not sit quietly after tendering (Harsimrat Kaur's) resignation. The Akali Dal will take this fight to its logical conclusion," he said.
"We have always raised the voice of farmers and farm labourers, and will continue to do so as per the rich and glorious traditions of our party," he said, adding that the SAD will soon come up with a strategy.
The three bills -- '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' were introduced in Parliament by the government on Monday.
All these, which were earlier promulgated as ordinances, have been passed in Lok Sabha and will now be tabled in Rajya Sabha.
The SAD voted against these bills.
It has also issued a whip to its members in the Upper House asking them to oppose the bills.
Chandumajra accused the Congress and the AAP of trying to deceive farmers on the issue and playing a double game.
"On the one hand these parties are opposing the agricultural bills in Punjab, but they colluded with each other and did not oppose them in Delhi on the other," he said.
"If the Congress and the AAP had insisted on a division of votes on the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, the BJP might have been forced to postpone tabling of the agricultural bills," he said.
The SAD leader alleged that Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is also guilty of not only becoming a member of the high-powered committee which approved the agricultural ordinances but also of giving suggestions which were in line with the suggested ordinances.
"This amounts to betraying the trust of the entire farming community," he claimed.
Chandumajra said neither Congress president Sonia Gandhi nor AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal uttered a single word against the agricultural ordinances and both the parties are "only shedding crocodile tears now".
Farmers in Punjab and neighbouring Haryana have repeatedly taken to the streets against the farm bills, which they have dubbed as "anti-farmer".
They have expressed apprehension that the passage of these bills would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system and leave the farming community at the "mercy" of big corporates.
Harsimrat's resignation over farm sector bills bold, historic stand: Parkash Singh Badal
SAD patriarch Parkash Singh Badal on Saturday described the resignation of Harsimrat Kaur Badal from the Union Cabinet as "bold, historic and a principled stand", and said the Akalis could never be a party to anything which harms the interests of farmers.
Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the sole SAD member in the Narendra Modi government, resigned from the Union Cabinet on Thursday in protest against three farm sector bills.
Hailing his party for keeping "aloft the flag of justice for farmers", Parkash Singh Badal said if farmers and agricultural economy suffer, the whole economy, including trade and industry, of the country will suffer too.
"Lure of office means nothing to an Akali. Countless times, as during the Emergency, we turned down outright offers of power as a price for silence against injustice."
"We always spurned such offers and preferred to stand by the country and principles, and filled jails for that. That tradition will always live on," the five-time former chief minister of Punjab said in a statement here while reacting to SAD's stand against the farm sector bills.
Parkash Singh Badal described the SAD's decision to pull out of the Union cabinet and fight alongside the farmers as "a proud and a landmark moment in the party's long history of standing up for principles and of always being on the side of the people whenever a line is drawn".
"Farmers of Punjab always came to the country's rescue when it needed to be saved from the ignominy of famines and dependence on other nations. They did so by sacrificing their natural resources -- water levels and soil fertility. Today, it is the country's turn to stand by the farmers," he said.
The SAD patriarch congratulated Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who is also his daughter-in-law, for "speaking out boldly for the farmers and for promising to stand by them".
The proposed legislation on marketing of the farmers' produce needed wider consultations, especially with the stakeholders, the farmers, as well as with parties like the SAD, he said.
Parkash Singh Badal said he was satisfied that as a "mature" representative of the people, the SAD tried to convey the sentiments of farmers to the Centre and tried its best to persuade it to refer the proposed legislation to an all-party select committee of MPs for wider consultations with farmers.
"The party tried to act as a bridge to find an amicable way to fully accommodate the farmers' interests. But I am glad that when that did not seem possible, and a line had to be drawn, the SAD stood on the right side of the line and 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 farmers," he said. Badal appealed to Punjabis and all political parties to stand with farmers, during this "struggle for justice"
Why is SAD still with NDA, asks Amarinder Singh .
Questioning the Akalis alliance with the NDA, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday asked the SAD to list "one pro-farmer initiative" persuaded by it with the BJP-led Centre in the past six years.
Hitting out at Badals for "perpetuating lies" in the past few days on agriculture bills, he said they had "openly and shamelessly supported" these since the Ordinances were brought in.
The chief minister, in a statement here, said SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal had been fabricating lies on farm bills, which have been completely exposed.
"Did either of you even once call the ordinances anti-farmer till they were presented in the Lok Sabha?" the chief minister asked Badals.
"Did Harsimrat even once, till her resignation, tell farmers that she was trying to persuade the Central government to address their concerns, something she is now claiming?" he further asked.
Questioning the Akalis alliance with the NDA, the chief minister further asked, "Why is SAD still part of the NDA given that, by Harsimrat's own admission, the BJP-led government failed to address the farmers' concerns she put before them?" Amarinder Singh also asked Harsimrat Kaur and Sukhbir Badal if they can cite even one pro-farmer initiative that they might have undertaken in over past six years to persuade the BJP-led government at the Centre to act on it.
The chief minister said the people of Punjab, especially the farmers, will not forgive them.
"The ordinances, which you had been shamefacedly supporting all through till you decided to back off under political compulsions of the fear of losing your farmers' vote-bank, were never discussed or even mentioned at the high-powered meetings, a fact on which your coalition partners either deliberately kept in you in dark or which you consciously choose to ignore in your own petty interest," he told the Badals.
Unlike the SAD, the Congress had maintained a consistent stand against the ordinances which the Centre introduced on the sly amid the pandemic and then pushed through the Lok Sabha by the sheer brute majority, Amarinder said.
The Badals should stop lying on such a critical issue, and instead, come out in the open fight against the NDA coalition by withdrawing from the alliance, said the chief minister.
He added that their claims of standing shoulder to shoulder with farmers were "hollow and false" as long as they continued to lie on the subject and remained a part of the "anti-farmer" Central Government.