New Delhi: The Modi government and opposition appear to be in a tussle, from Parliament to the streets, but former union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, a one-time BJP ally, believes that the “political match” between Congress and the BJP appears to be fixed.
In an exclusive interview with ThePrint, Harsimrat, a prominent leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), cited the recent disruptions in Parliament as proof of her charges.
“A discussion takes place inside the House when they (Congress) allow it to happen but nothing transpires when they do not agree to it,” she said.
“A discussion on the OBC Constitution Amendment Bill did take place, but the issue of farmers could not be discussed. Had the Congress party applied adequate pressure on the central government on the issue of farmers, the contentious farm Laws would have been surely withdrawn by now.”
Harsimrat alleged that this is all the more pronounced in Punjab. “While it takes several days for ministers, and even BJP chief ministers of other states, to get an appointment with PM Modi or Home Minister Amit Shah, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh manages to hold a meeting with Amit Shah without any delay,” she said.
“How is this possible when it takes Amarinder Singh as many as five days to meet his own party president Sonia Gandhi?” she asked.
“If the match is indeed not fixed, then why has no action been taken against Amarinder Singh in the Swiss bank account case? There has been no action against him in the ED case as well.”
Amarinder Singh’s son, Raninder Singh, is under the ED scanner for alleged Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) violation. The Punjab chief minister has also had to battle allegations of having stacked money in Swiss accounts.
Responding to a query on whether she backed a caste-based census, Harsimrat said that neither the Congress nor the BJP will allow such an exercise.
“It should be clearly known how many people belong to which caste of the country. Neither Congress nor BJP will allow this exercise, so it is necessary for people to strengthen the regional parties,” she said.
“The reins of power in one party is located in Delhi while the other one is controlled from Nagpur. Through your medium, I would like to appeal to people that if you strengthen these national parties with a high command culture, then you will also be suppressed just like the farmers’ agitation.”
‘BJP ministers are scared of their high command’
During the just-concluded monsoon session, Harsimrat, the daughter-in-law of the Badal family, remained in news for the unique way she protested the contentious farm bills.
Every day she would stand at one of the entry doors of Lok Sabha to hand out funicles of wheat to various MPs.
On several occasions, BJP MPs bluntly refused to accept her offering, while others tried to sneak inside Parliament through another door after seeing her. Once she managed to present these funicles to Hema Malini after a lot of persuasion.
The former union minister told ThePrint that “BJP MPs are too scared”.
“They are not able to visit their own assembly or Lok Sabha constituencies. In Punjab and Haryana, angry people (farmers) are even tearing clothes of these MPs and other leaders,” she said. “The farmers have put BJP leaders under house arrest. They are sneezing inside them. While farmers are getting martyred each day, these people have turned a deaf ear to their cause.”
She claimed that BJP leaders were responding by calling farmers “hooligans and parasites”.
“Firstly you are taking away their livelihood, and simultaneously you are also insulting them,” she said. “On top of all this, you are not even ready to discuss this topic. The central government is completely scared. Unfortunately the fear of the high command has spread so deep in the BJP that when I was offering funicles to some MPs inside the Parliament premises, the BJP ministers were running away from me like I was holding a knife in my hand.
“They were afraid that the BJP high command might get upset with them. They are even afraid to whisper about the farmers’ plight. BJP leaders live in too much panic just to remain ministers,” she alleged.
“They continuously bother about not doing something that might upset the party high command. The kind of ‘panicky atmosphere’ they have created all over the country is not good for us.”
Harsimrat was in the union cabinet when the farm bills were passed but resigned soon after in September 2020. Her party then pulled out of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), ending a 24-year relationship with the BJP.
‘Amarinder colluding with Centre’
Responding to a question on why she thought Home Minister Amit Shah was generous towards Amarinder, especially considering the Akali Dal was one of the BJP’s oldest allies, Harsimrat Kaur reiterated her charges about the Punjab CM getting appointments with BJP top brass in Delhi.
“The match-fixing between the two has existed since 2017 (assembly elections). At that time, when RSS and BJP were apprehensive that AAP might storm to power in Punjab, the BJP silently transferred all its votes to Amarinder,” she alleged.
“That was the reason for Captain’s large mandate. When work was progressing on the Kartarpur corridor, Captain was speaking in the same language as that of the central government.”
The former union minister also alleged that Amarinder never raises the farmers’ issue with the central government whenever he is in Delhi.
“When he comes to Delhi and meets Amit Shah, they never discuss the farmers’ issue. The entire meeting is held behind closed doors,” she said. “On the farmers’ agitation, he has been helping the centre. Whenever he comes out of a meeting with Amit Shah he raises the central government’s issues such as national security, Pakistan, drone infiltration etc.”
She also alleged that he has done little for Punjab. “Captain Amarinder’s high command has also accepted the fact that he did not fulfill several promises mentioned in their manifesto. Farmers had filled lengthy forms with high hopes that their debts would be waived, nothing happened on that count too,” she said. “But now he feels that he can win Punjab elections by raising the issue of nationalism.
“If the match between the two is indeed not fixed, then why has the Centre not taken action against him even after damning disclosure of Amarinder having an account in a Swiss Bank. There are several ED cases against him, yet there has been no progress in these cases since 2017,” she claimed.
“It clearly illustrates that he is colluding with the Centre to get his cases settled. This suits both Amarinder as well as BJP, otherwise there would have been an amicable resolution of the farmers’ agitation by now.”
‘Everything wrong in Pegasus case’
Harsimrat also told ThePrint that each and everything was wrong with the Pegasus issue, in which the government is accused of tapping the phones of politicians, judges, journalists and other public figures.
“If the government had nothing to hide, then it should have come clear in front of the entire nation. Pegasus’ parent company, the NSO Group, has clearly stated that they sell this software only to government agencies and this software has been discovered on many phones in our country,” she said.
“It clearly means that the government is indeed engaged in some sort of snooping activities. This is a very serious issue.”
She added that the issue points to the government becoming a dictatorship.
“You should have used this software against known terrorists and other miscreants. Instead you are using it to tap the mobile phones of judges, EC officials and your political opponents,” she said.
“All this is being done just to stay in power. If this is not dictatorship, then what is it? You have made a complete mockery of the entire system.”
She further said that she found it surprising that the government is not considering Pegasus as an issue worthy of discussion.
“Just like the government is running away from a discussion on the issue of farm laws, it is also shying away from an open discussion on the espionage issue only for the sake of its inflated ego and false modesty,” Harsimrat said.
“Everyone knows that the farm laws are never going to be implemented. The government still used brute political force to get them passed even after so much protest from the opposition.”
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)