CHANDIGARH: Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal on Saturday demanded that the Punjab government immediately bring an ordinance to declare the entire state as an agriculture market to thwart the implementation of the Centre's farm legislations.
"Instead of being obsessed with the Akali phobia day and night and indulging in petty mudslinging against his opponent, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh must act to safeguard farmers," the SAD chief said in a statement.
"The best and in fact the only way to block the implementation of the Centre's new Acts in Punjab is to declare the entire state a principal market area or a mandi for farm produce," he said, adding that any area declared as a "mandi" is exempt from the application of the new legislations.
Badal said with the move, 'big corporate sharks' will not be able to enter the state, thus saving farmers from their 'fangs'.
Badal also asked the chief minister to repeal the amendments made by his government in the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Act in 2017.
The Amarinder Singh government had amended the Act to include all provisions like the creation of private yards, direct marketing and e-trading, he said.
"These amendments are exactly the same as the black laws of the Centre against which the farmers are protesting. Amarinder's APMC provisions have actually pre-dated the Centre's black laws," Badal said.
"These APMC amendments need to be repealed by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha. We will fully support the state government initiative to repeal these," he added.
Badal said this initiative needed to be taken by the CM the earliest.
"There is no time to waste, he said, adding that an ordinance should be issued to this effect before the farm Bills become Acts and notified by the Centre."
Earlier, addressing farmers and Akali workers in Patiala and Ludhiana, Badal said his party will "wholeheartedly support" the CM regarding the ordinance.
"We urge him to first immediately issue an ordinance declaring Punjab a mandi and follow it up quickly by convening a special session of the Vidhan Sabha to convert it into a formal Act," he said.
Badal urged all political parties to rise above political considerations to ensure a unanimous passage of such a Bill.
The SAD expresses support to all initiatives, agitations or any other programme announced by farmer representative, regardless of which organisation or party starts them, he said.
Amarinder on Saturday said the Akalis' "adamant refusal" to quit the NDA coalition over the contentious agricultural Bills showed the "extent of their greed and desperation to cling to the power".
The fact that the Shiromani Akali Dal is holding on to the "last vestige" of power it enjoys at the cost of Punjab and its farmers, despite being publicly humiliated by its alliance partner BJP, has exposed their dual standards and total lack of concern for the farming community, said the chief minister.
He was referring to the BJP's statement that it has left the task of convincing farmers on the agriculture Bills to the Akalis.
"Why else are the Akalis still a part of the anti-farmer and anti-people BJP-led government at the Centre, which had conspired with large corporate houses to deprive farmers of their livelihood and ruin Punjab?" asked Singh.
Singh also accused the SAD of "trying hard to stay politically afloat by hook or by crook".
After the "politically motivated drama" of Harsimrat Kaur's resignation from the Union Cabinet, "clearly undertaken to save face" amid farmers' unrest across Punjab, SAD president Sukhbir Badal was widely expected to pull his party out of the Union government, but it did not happen, said Amarinder Singh, seeking to deride the Akali leader for his "shameful double-speak".
Lambasting Akalis for "actively supporting" the Union government in "selling off" the farmers' rights to the "monopolistic corporate houses through the unconstitutional and undemocratic farm Bills", the chief minister said the SAD has completely lost its political credibility after their antics on the new laws.
The Badals will go down in the Akali history as leaders responsible for the party's destruction, he said in a statement here.
From the farmers' resentment against them to their fallout with the BJP, the Akalis seem to be heading towards total elimination from Punjab's political arena, said Amarinder Singh, adding the people of the state, especially the farmers, will not forgive the Badals for their deception and dishonesty.
"The Prime Minister and his BJP do not care for the Akalis as is evident from the promptness with which Harsimrat's resignation was accepted," said the chief minister.
It seems the BJP wants to go it alone in the Punjab assembly polls, he said, adding the stage seems set for the NDA to throw out SAD if the latter does not quit the ruling coalition on its own.