New Delhi: Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal from Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), one of the oldest BJP allies, resigned Thursday from the Union Cabinet to protest against three farm bills, saying they’re “anti-farmer ordinances and legislation”.
“I have resigned from the Union Cabinet in protest against anti-farmer ordinances and legislation. Proud to stand with farmers as their daughter & sister,” Badal tweeted Thursday night.
I have resigned from Union Cabinet in protest against anti-farmer ordinances and legislation. Proud to stand with farmers as their daughter & sister.
— Harsimrat Kaur Badal (@HarsimratBadal_) September 17, 2020
Of the three bills, the Narendra Modi government passed one bill to replace the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 Tuesday.
On Thursday, the government passed the other two bills to replace the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020.
SAD leader Sukhbir Singh Badal had strongly criticised the Modi government in Lok Sabha during the passage of the bill to replace the Essential Commodities Ordinance.
Sukhbir had said that his party cannot support anything, which goes against the interest of the ‘Anna data’ (food giver) in the country, especially in Punjab.
SAD has only two members in the Lok Sabha and Harsimrat is the only minister from the party in the government.
Among the BJP’s allies, SAD is the oldest. They had allied with the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, BJP’s predecessor, for the first time during Punjab assembly elections in 1969. It formed a coalition with the BJP again in 1997 during the state elections. At the Centre, however, SAD joined the BJP-led coalition in 1998 and has been with it since.
While SAD continues to be a part of the NDA, if it decides to break away, the NDA will be left with 13 allies and a total of 334 MPs.
However, SAD’s walking out will not affect the BJP’s stability in Lok Sabha. With 303 MPs, BJP continues to be the largest constituent of NDA.
SAD not the only ally to walk out of NDA
If the SAD breaks away from the NDA, it will be the third ally to do so since the coalition came to power in 2014.
In November 2019, Shiv Sena, one of the biggest NDA constituents with 18 members, broke its alliance with the BJP soon after the results of the Maharashtra assembly election came out last year.
The party had accused the BJP of breaking its promise of giving equal division of power to the party in the state.
In 2018, just ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Telugu Desam Party ended its four-year alliance with the BJP over denial of special category status to Andhra Pradesh.
Opposition to the ordinances
Several farmers’ organisations, especially in Punjab and Haryana, have been carrying out protests and demonstrations against the three ordinances of the Centre.
The Modi government has faced severe criticism from the opposition, especially the Congress, which has termed the ordinances anti-farmers.
The SAD has sought that the bills be referred to the joint select committee of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
SAD leaders even met BJP national president J.P. Nadda Tuesday in Delhi and highlighted their concerns.
Party chief Sukhbir, Rajya Sabha members Balwinder Singh Bhunder, Naresh Gujral and senior leader Prem Singh Chandumajra met Nadda at his residence during which they urged him to address the concerns of the farmers with regard to the three bills before going ahead.
On Wednesday, Nadda held a hurried press conference to defend the three bills and termed them “reformist” and “revolutionary”.
Nadda said “all the three bills related to the empowerment of the farmers are truly reformist and revolutionary”.
“Farmers will be free to sell their produce in a competitive market of their choice. By opposing these bills, Congress is only hampering farmers’ all-round development,” he added.
Asked that one of its own allies was opposing the bill, Nadda said the BJP has been in consultation with them and addressed their concerns.
Nadda had also tried to allay the fears of the farmers’ who have been protesting for days now, saying the minimum support price (MSP) and agricultural produce market committee (APMC) will remain in place.
However, according to sources in the farmers organisation, they want this aspect to be incorporated clearly in the bills.
This report has been updated to reflect the fact that though Harsimrat Badal has left the Union Cabinet, SAD continues to be a part of the NDA