SAD leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigns from Modi Cabinet as LS clears two farm bills; Congress terms it 'gimmick'
Had the SAD taken a stand earlier and supported his government against the farm ordinances, the Centre might have thought ten times before pushing the anti-farmer Bills in Parliament, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh said on Thursday
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Thursday announced that she has resigned as the Union Minister of Food Processing in protest against "anti-farmer ordinances and legislation", two of which were passed by the Lok Sabha.
She announced her resignation on Twitter, saying:
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
The Centre had on Monday introduced in Parliament the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 to replace the ordinances promulgated earlier.
Two of the three bills, meant to deregulate the sale of farm produce, were passed in the Lok Sabha on Thursday amid opposition by several farmer organisations, fearing they will lead to the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) regime.
In her four-page resignation letter to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kaur said despite her persistent pleas and repeated efforts from her party, the Central government has not taken farmers on board regarding these bills.
Asserting that every member of her party is a farmer, she said the SAD is merely continuing its age old tradition of being a champion of farmers' interests.
It could not be immediately ascertained if the prime minister has accepted her resignation.
Her resignation came soon after her husband and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal strongly opposed the three farm sector bills in Lok Sabha, claiming that they will "destroy" the agriculture sector in Punjab, and announced that the Union minister will quit the government in protest.
"I announce that Harsimrat Kaur Badal will resign from the government," he had said in the Lower House.
Sukhbir, during a discussion on two of the farm bills — the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill — said the proposed legislations will "destroy" the 50 years of hard work done by successive Punjab governments to build the farm sector.
While strongly opposing the bills, the SAD president also recalled Punjab's massive contribution in making India self-sufficient in food grain production.
The Jalalabad MP said that Punjab is one of the only states to have every inch of land irrigated and the only state where droughts do not affect the produce. He also asserted that the state's Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act was the "best in the entire world".
Harsimrat Kaur is the only SAD representative in the Modi government. The Punjab party is the oldest BJP ally.
Congress terms Harsimrat Kaur's resignation gimmick
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday called Harsimrat's resignation from the Modi Cabinet as nothing more than a gimmick to befool the farmers of Punjab.
Had the SAD taken a stand earlier and supported his government against the farm ordinances, the Centre might have thought ten times before pushing the anti-farmer Bills in Parliament, the chief minister said.
"Did Sukhbir and Harsimrat and their coterie not see the damage the legislation would do to Punjab's agriculture and economy all this time?" he said in a statement, adding, "Or were they so blinded by their greed for power that they deliberately chose to close their eyes to the danger posed by the ordinances?"
Amarinder also said the resignation announcement was another in a long chain of theatrics enacted by the Shiromani Akali Dal, which has still not quit the ruling coalition despite the "slap on their face by the Central Government over the farm bills".
But they will not succeed in misleading the farmer organisations, he said, calling it a case of too little, too late.
The resignation from the Union Cabinet has come too late to be of any help to Punjab and its farmers, the chief minister's statement said.
"The SAD decision to pull out its sole minister in the Union Cabinet was motivated not by any concern for the farmers but to save its political fortunes and the fizzling political careers of the Badals, who had lost all credibility in the eyes of Punjab's people," he claimed.
Healso said that it was the farmers' anger and the pressure mounted by the state's farmer organisations that had compelled the Badals to change their stance.
"Now that their game plan was exposed, the Akalis were left with no option but to take a public stand against the Bills to protect their vote bank in Punjab," he claimed.
With inputs from PTI
Badal joined the party at the BJP headquarters in the presence of several leaders, including Union Minister Piyush Goyal. Recently, his absence from the Punjab chapter of the Congress' Bharat Jodo Yatra had been noticed by state unit leaders
Mahesh Jethmalani's comments came amid a controversy revolving around a BBC documentary on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi