With Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigning from the Union Cabinet in protest against the Centre’s three controversial farm Bills, the Akali patriarch and five-time Chief Minister of Punjab, Parkash Singh Badal, on Saturday expressed “immense satisfaction and pride” over the stand taken by the SAD “to save the beleaguered peasantry in Punjab and the rest of the country”.
Badal described the party’s decision to pull out of the BJP-led NDA government to fight alongside the agitating farmers as “a proud and 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”.
One of the oldest allies of the BJP, the SAD however continues to be part of the NDA. The Akali patriarch said that the farmers’ plight is already “extremely pathetic”.
“The Punjab farmers always came to the country’s rescue when it needed to be saved from the ignominy of famines and dependence on other nations. And they did so by sacrificing their only natural resources ~ water levels and soil fertility. Today, it is the country’s turn to stand by the farmers,” he said. Badal pointed out that the farmers’ issue is related to the overall national interest. “Agriculture is the backbone of our economy. If farmers and agricultural economy suffers, the whole economy, including trade and industry, will suffer too,” he asserted. The ex-CM said that the Akalis have a long history of “rejecting lure of office and standing up for principles”.
“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.
But 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,” he claimed.
Badal said that with the resignation of its sole representative in the Narendra Modi Cabinet, Harsimrat, the SAD demonstrated again that nothing was dearer to it than its principles as well as the interests of the people, especially of the farmers, the farm labour and other poor classes who have been toiling for their rights. He felicitated Harsimrat for “speaking out boldly for the farmers and for promising to stand by them as their sister and daughter”.
The Akali patriarch said the Centre’s legislation on the marketing of the farmers’ produce needed wider consultations, especially with the stakeholders, the farmers, as well as with the parties like SAD that have always been the voice of farmers.
He said that he was satisfied that as a mature representative of the people, the SAD tried to convey the sentiments of the farmers to the Union government and tried its best to persuade it to refer the legislation to an all-party Select Committee of Members of Parliament for wider consultations with the farmers.
Badal’s arch Congress rival and Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has dismissed Harsimrat’s resignation as a Union minister as a “gimmick”, saying that if the SAD had taken a stand and supported his government against the Centre’s farm Ordinances earlier, it could have blocked the Modi government’s bid to push these “anti-farmer” and “anti-federal” Bills through Parliament.