Shiromani Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal has alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance was an alliance “just in name”, The Indian Express reported on Monday. Badal’s comments came a day after his party, one of the BJP’s oldest allies, pulled out of the NDA.
“For the last 7, 8, 10 years or so, NDA is just in name,” he told the newspaper. “There is nothing in the NDA. No discussion, no planning, no meetings. I don’t remember a day in last 10 years when the Prime Minister called NDA meeting for lunch to discuss what they have in mind. Alliances should not be on paper… Before this, during Vajpayee’s time, there used to be a proper relationship. My father is a founder member of the NDA… It’s sad that we created the NDA but the NDA is not there today.”
Badal said the alliance was based on a common minimum programme, and that the welfare of farmer as well as communal harmony were its fundamental principles. “I am sad the BJP has become insensitive to both these principles,” he told The Tribune. “We tried to persuade them to listen to the farmers. But when they refused to budge, we had to come out and stand by the beleaguered farmers.”
Badal said the decision to exit the NDA was unanimous. “When Harsmirat Badal resigned from the [Narendra Modi] Cabinet, I had said that the party will meet and take a decision,” he added. “The party met yesterday and we took the decision.”
Badal said he spoke to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, proposing to bring an ordinance to declare the whole state a Mandi (Principal Marketing Yard) to save farmers from the Centre’s agriculture sector laws, reported The Hindu. “It would be good if they declare the entire state as principal market yard as we proposed,” he said, according to The Indian Express. “We are for farmers. Our interest is not to play games. If they [the Congress government in the state] do not do what we feel is right, we will do it when we come to power.”
Badal also asked all Opposition parties to jointly fight for the farmers’ cause. “We are ready to join or follow any struggle in the overall interests of the farmers, farm labour, Arhatiyas and other farm produce traders,” Badal had said while addressing a rally in Ropar on Sunday. “Anything like the new farm bills, which increase the uncertainty over the fate of the farmers’ produce can have disastrous implications not only for the economy but also for social stability. The farmers’ plight affects the entire economy. Therefore what we are fighting for is to protect the national interests,” he said.
Badal’s call to unite has found support in the Shiv Sena and the Trinamool Congress. Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut said his party “appreciates Akali Dal’s decision to break its ties with NDA in the interest of farmers”, reported NDTV.
“We support Mr Badal and SAD’s stand for the farmers,” Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien tweeted. “Fighting for farmers is part of Trinamool DNA. In 2006, Mamata Banerjee risked her life on a historic 26 day fast for farmers’ rights. We oppose Farm Bills 2020 as they endanger states’ role, minimum support price, public distribution system and procurement.” O’Brien was one of the eight MPs suspended for “unruly behaviour” during the passage of the bills in Parliament last week.
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill were cleared by Parliament in September amid protests from the Opposition.
Critics say that these new agricultural policies would lead to farmers losing out on guaranteed purchase prices for their crops, to the benefit of large corporations. Most Opposition parties and farmers’ organisations across the country have strongly opposed the bills.