Akalis quit NDA over farm bills
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) said on Saturday it was exiting the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition at the Centre after Parliament’s approval of three contentious farm bills, days after the party’s lone minister in the central government resigned from the Union Cabinet over what the party said were “anti-farmer” laws.
All leaders at the SAD’s emergency core committee meet late on Saturday were unanimous in deciding that the party can no longer be part of the NDA, its president Sukhbir Singh Badal said.
Parliament has passed the three bills that the Narendra Modi-led government says are aimed at unleashing reforms in agriculture. While some experts have hailed the move, farmer bodies and opposition parties allege that the laws will benefit only the corporate sector and traders.
While announcing the decision to snap its 24-year-long ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the SAD cited “injustice to farmers, Sikhs, Punjab and the Punjabi language”.
“The core committee decided unanimously to pull out of the BJP-led NDA alliance because of the Centre’s stubborn refusal to give statutory legislative guarantees to protect assured marketing of farmers crops on MSP [Minimum Support Price] and its continued insensitivity to Punjabi and Sikh issues like excluding Punjabi language as official language in Jammu and Kashmir,” said a statement issued by SAD spokesperson Harcharan Singh Bains after the three-hour-long meet.
The SAD, a long-time constituent of the NDA, and the BJP have been allies since 1996, when they forged a pre-poll alliance ahead of the 1997 Punjab assembly elections that brought them to power.
In a statement, Badal said that the SAD will continue to stand by its core principles of peace, communal harmony and guard the interests of Punjab, Punjabi in general and Sikhs and farmers in particular.
Last week, the SAD’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned as the Union minister for food processing in protest against the three farm bills that were later passed in the monsoon session of Parliament.
The new laws aim to liberalise the agriculture sector by removing hurdles created by the Agriculture Marketing Produce Committee (AMPC) Act in direct procurement of agricultural produce by buyers and create a level-playing field for all, thereby allowing private players a bigger role in farm trade.
Farmer bodies and opposition parties say that these reform bills take away price protection provided through MSP, whereas the government maintains that MSP will remain in place and the bills will ensure higher remuneration for farmers.
Badal said the new laws on agricultural marketing are lethal and disastrous for the already beleaguered farmers. He said the SAD was the oldest ally of the BJP but the government did not listen to it on honouring the sentiments of farmers.
Responding to the developments, BJP national spokesperson Gopal Agarwal said: “Farm bills are for the benefit of the farmers… MSP was an administrative mechanism, which will continue to be operational as earlier. The Akali Dal’s apprehensions are uncalled for. Hope they will realise it and come back to the NDA fold. But our government will continue on the path of farmers’ welfare and take steps to increase agriculture sector income.”