Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal on Tuesday accused his former ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party, of being the “real tukde tukde gang”, amid the ongoing farm law protests. “Tukde-tukde gang” is a term used to target people the BJP and its supporters allege are out to balkanise India.

“The BJP is the real tukde tukde gang in the country,” Badal tweeted. “It has smashed national unity to pieces, shamelessly inciting Hindus against Muslims & now desperate setting peace loving Punjabi Hindus against their Sikh brethren especially farmers.”

The SAD chief also alleged that the saffron party was “pushing patriotic Punjab into communal flames.”

The Shiromani Akali Dal, one of BJP’s oldest ally, had quit the National Democratic Alliance in September amid sharp difference with the saffron party over the farm laws. SAD leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal had also quit from the Union Cabinet on September 18.

Badal’s comments came after several BJP leaders claimed that anti-national forces have become a part of the farmers’ protests. The SAD chief had on Monday also lashed out at the BJP over the allegations on the farmers’ protest.

In a series of tweets, Badal questioned the BJP’s claims, saying the party brands people as patriots if they side with the NDA government but dub them “anti-national” or from “tukde tukde gang” if they do not. “Is S. Parkash Singh Badal who returned his Padma Vibhushan or Harsimrat Kaur Badal who resigned from Union ministry in protest against Agriculture laws desh drohis [traitors]?” he tweeted.

In another tweet, the former Punjab chief minister condemned the portrayal of the farmers’ agitation as a Hindu-Sikh conflict. “This started in Delhi & now the same forces want to replicate it in Punjab,” he said. “SAD is very clear – Punjab will prosper only with peace & communal harmony.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Union minister Nitin Gadkari had hinted that the ongoing farmer agitation was being hijacked by people with different agendas. He pointed out that photographs of people who delivered “anti-national speeches”, and support the “Naxalite movement” were seen during the farmers’ protest. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath had also said that the farmers’ protest was being hijacked by anti-national forces.

Last month, the BJP’s Information Technology Cell head Amit Malviya had alleged that the farmers’ agitation had “Khalistani and Maoist” links. Malviya was the second prominent BJP leader to suggest the involvement of Khalistani supporters in the protests. Before him, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar made similar allegations. None of them, however, had provided any evidence to support their claims.

The farm law protests

The farmers’ agitation against the new farm laws entered its 21st day on Wednesday. Tens of thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi.

The farmers fear the agricultural reforms will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, will lead to the deregulation of crop-pricing, deny them fair remuneration for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporations.

The government, on the other hand, maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies.

On December 9, the farmers had rejected the Centre’s written proposal on the amendments it was willing to make to the three agriculture laws, and threatened to intensify their protests. Both parties had also held several rounds of talks but failed to reach a consensus.