Political forces in Punjab have come together on a common platform against the Centre on the issue of agriculture ordinances while indulging in a war of words with each other. Against the three farm ordinances, the ruling Congress, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are indulging in blame-game, while making all out efforts to woo the farming community. Up in arms against the Centre, the Congress-led Punjab Government on Wednesday expressed its solidarity towards the farmers by withdrawing the cases registered against them during agitations, while ensuring that no fresh cases will be registered against them for violating Section 144.
The Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh led a Congress party’s delegation to meet Punjab Governor VP Singh Badnore in the morning to air concerns over the law and order situation following the enactment of farm ordinances.
Also stepping in the battle, SAD decided to oppose its own alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), at the Centre on the issue by deciding to oppose the three agriculture-related Bills in the Parliament.
The decision came a day after the Akali Dal claimed that it was “not consulted” before introducing the three contentious farm ordinances. Party president Sukhbir Badal claimed that when the Centre brought the ordinances in June, SAD’s representative in the Union Cabinet had “expressed reservations”. He even urged the Union Government to reconsider the matter.
Taking a dig at Sukhbir, AAP’s Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann said: “I am surprised he (Sukhbir) is objecting to the Bills, while his wife is occupying a ministerial berth at the Centre. They (Akalis) should have sacrificed the Ministry if they were against the Bills.”
Congress senior leader and Punjab Cabinet Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu has also accused SAD chief of pursuing double standards over the issue. “If you are genuinely sympathetic towards the farmers’ interests and Punjab, then immediately break party's ties with the Modi government at the Center which is on the verge of destroying the farmers. If now, then SAD could not run away from its responsibility to endorse this anti-farmer law,” he said.
Speculation is rife in the political circles about the possibilities of SAD taking a drastic step by resigning from the Union Cabinet. Currently, Sukhbir’s wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal is a part of the Union Cabinet and holds the Food Processing Industries Ministry.
Taking on the Akalis over their “theatrics” and U-turns on the issue, the Chief Minister pointed out that all except the SAD and the BJP were on board at the all-party meeting he had convened on the issue. “We passed a resolution in the State Assembly, we talked to all political parties and farmer unions…and all were on board except the Akalis, who are now pretending to be opposed to the Ordinances,” he said.
“Isn’t Harsimrat Badal a member of the Cabinet? Why didn’t she protest there and why doesn’t she speak outside either on the issue? What did the Akali Dal do in the assembly?” asked the Chief Minister, terming their U-turn a total farce and nothing more than a face-saver.
Terming the passage of one of the Bills in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday a black day in the history of Parliament, Jakhar warned that under pressure for the farmer unions, the “Akalis may even go to the extent of enacting the drama of resigning from the Central Government but it would be another farce on the part of the party”.
He saluted the farmers of the country, especially Punjab, who had compelled the Akalis to change their stance on the issue.
At the same time, SAD’s senior vice-president Prem Singh Chandumajra condemned both the Congress and AAP for teaming up to avoid voting on the amendments in the Essential Commodities Bill, while maintaining that party president Sukhbir Badal, also Ferozepur MP, had stood up to SAD’s “rich glorious traditions” by forcefully opposing the Central ordinances, including the Essential Commodities Bill, in the Parliament.
Former Minister and SAD leader Daljit Singh Cheema sought the Cief Minister’s resignation and apology for his failure to protect their interests in the Parliament. “It is ridiculous that at a time when Parliament is in session, the Chief Minister is expressing his views on the roads here instead of directing his MPs to express solidarity with the farming community by voting against the Ordinances being introduced there,” he said.
Leveling serious allegations against Sukhbir Badal for making “misleading” statements about agriculture ordinances, AAP MP and state unit chief Bhagwant Mann dubbed SAD chief as a liar saying that “by making a false statement about the ordinances, he has tarnished the Parliament’s image”.
Terming Sukhbir’s claim to vote against Essential Commodities Bill, introduced in the Parliament on Tuesday, as a blatant lie, Mann said: “First of all, there was no vote on the Essential Commodities Amendment Bill yesterday. The bill was passed by the Speaker in accordance with ‘Say yes to those who are in favor and say no to those who are against’. The reality of the occasion is that Sukhbir Singh Badal said no and no. However, I loudly said no to the bill.”
“Sukhbir came out of Parliament and told the media that he had voted against the Essential Commodities Amendment Act. He also said that I (Mann) was not present at that time. Sukhbir has not only tried to put a blot on my image but also the dignity of Parliament with this false, base and misleading statement for which I (Mann) will complain of violation of privilege against Sukhbir Singh Badal,” he said.
Mann also asked Sukhbir to tell where his wife and the Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal when the Bill was introduced. “Under what conspiracy was Harsimrat Kaur kept absent even when the bill related to her ministry was introduced?” he questioned.
Snubbing Mann for indulging in cheap theatrics, Cheema said that it was shocking that a two-time MP did not even know that Bills were also passed through voice vote in Parliament and was mouthing blatant lies that no voting had taken place to pass the Essential Commodities Act in Parliament yesterday. “It is shameful that AAP chose to team up with the Congress and refrained from voting against the amendments in the Essential Commodities Act,” he added.
AGRI BILLS WILL LEAD TO UNREST IN PUNJAB: CAPT
Warning that the enactment of farm ordinances would lead to resentment and unrest in the border state, which was already at the receiving end of Pakistan’s concerted efforts to foment trouble, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Wednesday led a Congress delegation to submit a memorandum to the Governor VP Singh Badnore, seeking his intervention for non-pursuance of the Agriculture Bills by the Centre in Parliament.
Flanked by Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar, Cabinet Ministers, and MLAs, the Chief Minister told the Governor that the party felt that any move to tinker with present procurement system, and that too in the times of nation-wide crisis, may deepen social unrest amongst the farmers of the State.
“It may not be conducive for the peace and development of the region, which faces serious challenges of public order due to a live international border,” he stressed.
Pointing to Pakistan’s bid to disturb the state’s peace and stability through narco-terror and other anti-India acts, the Chief Minister later told the mediapersons outside the Governor House that these anti-farmer legislations would lead to rise in the people’s anger.
“These Bills, one of which has already been passed in the Lok Sabha yesterday, are against national interest, and particularly detrimental to Punjab, where the majority of the farmers tilled less than five acres of land and would be the worst hit,” warned Capt Amarinder.
Hoping that the Centre will back out of pursuing the remaining two Bills and not get them passed in Parliament, he said that the Centre had failed to take the interest of the farmers into account in introducing these Ordinances and instead, took a stand in favour of corporate houses.
The Chief Minister said that he had written to the Prime Minister thrice on the issue but had not received any response to far. The enactment of the remaining two Bills would ruin Punjab, he said. If MSP ends, which is what the Centre seems to be moving towards, the agriculture sector will be ruined in Punjab and across the country, he added.
ROW OVER DANVE’s STATEMENT
Congress and Akali Dal are indulging in squabbling over the Union Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Raosaheb Patil Danve’s claims that Punjab was consulted on farming ordinances. “The Congress, and Punjab Government, have been vocally and vehemently opposing the Ordinances all through,” said Capt Amarinder, adding that the Union Minister had made a misleading and incorrect statement in the Parliament claiming that Punjab was on board the move.
He said that Punjab was, in fact, excluded from the high-powered committee on agricultural reforms constituted by the Centre and it was included after Punjab Government protested. “One meeting was attended by Finance Minister Manpreet Badal, and at the second meeting of officers, the states were clearly told that their opinion was not being sought but they were only being apprised about the proposed reforms. No mention was ever made of the Ordinances,” he added.
Also categorically denying Danve’s claim, Jakhar said that Punjab was never consulted on the Ordinances.
On the other hand, SAD leader NK Sharma has dared the Chief Minister to move a privilege motion against the Union Minister in the Parliament through his party, “if he claims that he is innocent and his Government has no role in enacting anti farmer agri ordinances”.
“Union Minister Danve has exposed that the Amarinder Government is part of the high power committee constituted by Niti Aayog to recommend framing of law on agriculture. This committee had met twice and the state Finance Minister had even gone to Mumbai to participate in discussions of this committee at that time,” said Sharma while releasing two videos.
SAD TO OPPOSE THREE AGRICULTURE-RELATED BILLS IN PARLIAMENT
SAD has decided to oppose the three agriculture-related Bills in the Parliament. The Bills — including Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020; The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020; and The Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 — are to replace the Ordinances.
SAD chief and Ferozepur MP Sukhbir Badal on Wednesday issued a note to party MPs to this effect. Party’s chief whip in Rajya Sabha Naresh Gujral also issued the notice. The party has three MPs in Rajya Sabha — Gujral, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Balwinder Singh Bhunder, while Lok Sabha has two MPs — Sukhbir and his Union Minister wife Harsimrat.