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NEW DELHI: One of the oldest allies of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Akali Dal’s lone minister in the Narendra Modi government, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, resigned from the Union Cabinet on Thursday to protest the farm bills.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief and her husband Sukhbir Badal had earlier in the day said in the Lok Sabha that Harsimrat Badal, the Minister for Food Processing, will resign in protest as the government tabled two more farm-sector related bills in the lower house amid widespread protests by farmers in Punjab and Haryana.
The SAD, a part of the NDA, had also protested against the first of three such bills, which has already been passed by the Lok Sabha.
“I have resigned from Union Cabinet in protest against anti-farmer ordinances and legislation. Proud to stand with farmers as their daughter and sister,” Harsimrat informed in a tweet.
Harsimrat is the only Akali representative in the Union government. She and her husband are the only two Lok Sabha MPs from the SAD.
While announcing the decision to withdraw the minister from the Union Cabinet, Sukhbir Badal said the SAD would continue to support the government and the BJP, but will oppose the anti-farmer policies. Sukhbir Badal said the three agriculture related Bills in the Lok Sabha would sound the death knell of 20 lakh farmers, three lakh ‘mandi’ labourers, 30 lakh farm labourers and 30,000 aarhatiyas, besides destroying the food grain procurement system established over a period of 50 years
Reacting to the development, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh called Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s decision to quit the Union Cabinet as another in the long chain of theatrics being enacted by the SAD, which has still not quit the ruling coalition despite the slap on their face by the Central government over the farm Bills.
Questioning SAD’s decision to continue to remain a part of the BJP-led NDA coalition at the Centre, the Chief Minister said even Harsimrat’s resignation was nothing more than a gimmick to befool the farmers of Punjab.
“But they (the Akalis) will not succeed in misleading the farmer organisations,” he said, calling it a case of ‘too little, too late.’
Harsimrat’s resignation from the Union Cabinet has come too late to be of any help to Punjab and its farmers, said the Chief Minister.
Had the SAD taken a stand earlier and supported his government against the ordinances, the situation might not even have come to such a pass, and the Centre might have thought 10 times before introducing the ordinances and pushing the anti-farmer legislations in Parliament, he added.
In her four-page resignation, Harsimrat said the SAD could never be a party to any decision that goes against the interests of the farmers.
“My decision symbolises my party’s vision, its glorious legacy and its commitment to go to any extent to safeguard the interests of the farmers,” she said in the resignation addressed to the Prime Minister.
“I am proud that today I am able in my humble way to take that legacy forward,” she said, adding that she deemed it an honour that farmers always had the greatest expectations from the SAD alone, and that the party had always lived up to those expectations.
“That legacy will not change, come what may. The trust farmers place in us is sacred to us,” she said.
She said her decision was “guided by the iconic legacy of Sardar Parkash Singh Badal for fighting to defend national interests, be it against the Emergency or for the establishment of a federal structure in the country as well as preserving external security or food security.”
Later, talking to the media, Harsimrat said she did not consider her step as any ‘sacrifice’ but just a natural and normal course for any proud Akali wedded to the ‘panthic’ values and to the cause of the farmers, whom she described as “anndata” or food provider of the nation.
“The real sacrifices are made by the farmers themselves. I am just standing by them as their daughter and sister,” she added.
Significantly, in her resignation Harsimrat recalled “the three-decades old alliance formed by two legendary icons — Sardar Parkash Singh Badal and Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee — which had not only revived the faith of the Sikh masses in justice and fair play but also served as the most enduring guarantee of peace and communal harmony in Punjab.”
She said she was confident that the alliance would continue to work together to maintain the hard earned atmosphere of peace and communal harmony in Punjab.