The resignation of Harsimrat Kaur Badal from the Modi-led NDA government had become a political compulsion for the Shiromini Akali Dal in view of the mounting resentment among the farmers of Punjab over the passing of three farm bills in the Lok Sabha.
Both Sukhbir Singh Badal, President, Shiromini Akali Dal, and Harsimrat had been propagating that three ordinances which have been converted into law, were not anti farmers and the minimum support price (MSP) for the foodgrains would continue.
They failed to convince the farmers and finally, they brought their 94 years old father and five-times Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to State that the farm bills were in favor of the farmers but that attempt also failed.
Now, when the NDA Government moved the “three ordinances” in the Lok Sabha session for making the same as law, again Sukhbir Badal and Harsimrat tried to convince the BJP leadership to postpone the passing of the bills and the ordinances be sent to the select committee of the Lok Sabha.
Their last-ditch effort also failed when Sukhbir led a delegation of the Akali Dal to meet the BJP national President JP Nadda to stall the bills for some time. But they failed to extract any assurance from Nadda and this disheartened Sukhbir and brought a change of heart. Immediately after meeting Nadda, Sukhbir issued a whip to the Akali MPs to oppose the farm bills in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
Akali Dal has two members in the Lok Sabha – Sukhbir and Harsimrat and two members in the Rajya Sabha – Balwinder Singh Bhunder and Naresh Gujral. Sukhbir cast his vote against the bills in the Lok Sabha and also announced that Harsimrat would resign from the Cabinet.
Harsimrat had to resign as the circumstances turned against the Akali Dal since the opposition of the farmers continued and touched an all-time high. The resentment against Badals also touched new highs and they could not afford any more opposition to them. So, Harsimrat had no option but to resign from the Modi cabinet.
This resignation by Harsimrat has come as a political survival for the Akali Dal. There is already a strong resentment against the Akali Dal on two points – the first pardon granted to Gurmeet Ram Raheem, head of the Dera Sacha Sauda, and theft of ‘Guru Granth Sahib’ and police firing at Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura.
These two incidents resulted in the decimation of the Akali Dal in the 2017 Vidhan Sabha polls when it was reduced to 15 seats-poor third position in the Vidhan Sabha.
The latest stand of the Akali Dal on the “farm bills” would give some respite to the major political party of the Sikhs which claims to represent the farmers notwithstanding the fact that the condition of the farmers in Punjab went from bad to worse during the SAD-BJP rule of ten years and maximum suicides of the farmers and farm laborers were reported from Punjab during their tenure.
Now, Harsimrat maintains that she failed to convince the BJP leaders regarding the Punjab situation with regard to the farm sector. She should have quit the Modi government three months ago. The Akali Dal would not have to face such strong opposition.
Meanwhile, Captain Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister has adopted an aggressive posture on the issue of “three farm bills” and charged BJP with adopting ‘Kisan Maru – Punjab Maru’ (destroy Kisans and destroy Punjab) policy. He has stated that Punjab had been already facing discrimination on the issue of rivers waters distribution.
Amarinder Singh has announced to challenge the “farm bills” in the law court and extended unconditional support to the farmers of Punjab in their agitation.
The ‘AAP’ has also become very active on the issue of “farm bill” and opposed the same in the Lok Sabha and is participating in the agitation along with the Punjab farmers.
The Punjab State is witnessing political storm on the issue of “farm bills” and the farmers are not ready to listen to the assurances of Prime Minister Modi on the issue of MSP and retention of Mandis.
KS Chawla is a senior journalist based at Ludhiana.
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