SAD quits NDA: How farm bills ended friendship between oldest allies
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the oldest ally of Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), parted ways on the issue of farm bills which were recently passed by Parliament.
The BJP government at the Centre has said that these landmark legislations will make farmers self-reliant.
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill seeks to give freedom to farmers to sell their produce outside the notified APMC market yards (mandis). This, the government says, is aimed at facilitating remunerative prices through competitive alternative trading channels.
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 seeks to give farmers the right to enter into a contract with agri business firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters, or large retailers for the sale of future farming produce at a pre-agreed price. And the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill seeks to remove commodities like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onion, and potato from the list of essential commodities and will do away with the imposition of stock holding limits.
The SAD had sought from the BJP-led central government not to bring the bills in Parliament till “all reservations” expressed by farmers are “duly addressed”.
But when the Centre did not pay heed, the Akali Dal asked it to send these farm bills to a select committee which was also not accepted.
Thereafter, Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned from the Union Cabinet in protest against the bills.
Earlier, the SAD had been maintaining that the Centre had assured that these ordinances would have no bearing on the existing crop procurement policy.
The issue had become a thorny one for SAD. According to Hindustan Times’ Hindi language publication Hindustan, staying with the government would have sent a wrong message to a big chunk of votebank in Punjab - the farmers. SAD has a grip on the Malwa region of Punjab, which is dominated by farmers. And it doesn’t want to risk the 2022 Assembly elections.
The Akalis formed the government in Punjab twice before 2017. But in 2017, they only got 15 seats out of 117. Looking to come back to power, the Akalis do not want to antagonise the farmers, according to Hindustan.
SAD was part of the NDA since 1997. Akali stalwart Parkash Singh Badal used to describe ties with the BJP as ‘nau-mass da rishta’ (ties like nail and flesh).