With former Congress president Rahul Gandhi set to join Punjab farmers in their 2 October protests against the Narendra Modi government’s recently-enacted controversial farm sector laws, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Wednesday alleged that the top Congress leader was indulging in “cheap publicity stunts” on the issue.
In a statement, SAD spokesman Daljit Singh Cheema asked the Congress leader to tell farmers of Punjab why he had “supported“ the abolition of the Agriculture Produce Markets Committee (APMC) Act and why he had not “protested” against the three “anti-farmers” agricultural Bills when they were tabled by the BJP government in Parliament for passage.
Cheema alleged that the Punjab Congress after “failing” on all fronts and even “betraying“ farmers by amending the state APMC Act in 2017 was now trying to win the sympathy of farmers by indulging in “cheap publicity stunts” by kicking off a Kisan Yatra from 2 October, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
“Getting Rahul Gandhi astride a tractor in Punjab is nothing but a photo opportunity designed to befool farmers. The Congress has always adopted an anti farmer stance be it the party’s 2019 election manifesto calling for abolition of the APMC Act or the amendment of the State APMC Act in Punjab in 2017 which includes all the provisions contained in the (Centre’s) agriculture Acts passed recently,” he said.
The SAD leader also said that before coming to Punjab, Rahul should come clean and tell the farmers of Punjab as to where he was when the agricultural Bills were tabled in Parliament.
He said Rahul should also explain why no top leader of the Congress party spoke against these Bills in Parliament and why the party did not even issue a whip to ensure all its Members of Parliament voted against the Bills.
Stating that both Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party should not play a “double game“ and try to deceive the farming community, Cheema said Rahul should tell farmers why the Congress party had not withdrawn support to the Udhav Thackerayled Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra after the latter had voted in favour of the agricultural Bills in Parliament.
He said Rahul should also tell farmers why his party was sticking to an alliance after the Sena had adopted an “anti-farmer stance“.
The ruling BJP’s oldest ally, SAD recently quit the Modi ministry and subsequently even quit their NDA coalition.
Amid the raging war of words in Punjab between the ruling Congress and the Opposition SAD over the Modi government’s three contentious agriculture legislations, CM Capt Amarinder Singh and SAD chief Sukhbir Badal and other Akali leaders have continued to trade fireworks, even though both camps have condemned these legislations as “anti farmers” and “anti-Punjab”.
Meanwhile, the SAD said two lakh people will join its “Kisan Marches” in 40,000 vehicles starting from all three Sikh religious Takhts (Amritsar, Talwandi Sabo and Anandpur Sahib) to Chandigarh tomorrow where the party will hand over a memorandum demanding revocation of the recentlypassed agricultural Bills to the Central government through the Punjab Governor.