Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Thursday ( September 17, 2020) quit the Modi government opposing the farm bills that seek to liberalize the agriculture sector. The move came shortly after Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal announced in the Lok Sabha that the minister will quit protesting the Centre’s anti-farmer move.
Harsimrat Badal is the only Shiromani Akali Dal representative in the Modi government. The Punjab party is the oldest BJP ally. While announcing the Shiromani Akali Dal decision to withdraw their minister from the Modi Cabinet, Sukhbir Badal said the Shiromani Akali Dal would continue to support the government and BJP but will oppose the anti-farmer policies.
The Congress government in Punjab had passed a resolution in the Vidhan Sabha against the ordinances, prompting the Shiromani Akali Dal to fiercely oppose the bills after initially supporting it. The Shiromani Akali Dal had been requesting the Centre not to go ahead with the three agriculture-related bills for approval of Parliament “until all reservations expressed by farmers’ organizations, farmers and farm laborers” are addressed. On Tuesday, the Shiromani Akali Dal voted against the contentious farm bill that was passed in the Lok Sabha. Sukhbir Singh Badal, participating in the debate, had described the bills as anti-farmer and said that the Centre never consulted his party before the ordinances were framed. Three farm sector-related ordinances were cleared by the Union cabinet recently and the corresponding bills were tabled in Lok Sabha on Monday. One of them -- the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020 -- was taken up for a discussion and passed by a voice vote. Sukhbir Badal refuted suggestions that his party initially supported the three ordinances, which these bills seek to replace, and asserted that Harsimrat Kaur Badal had expressed her concerns in the Cabinet meeting and also wrote to agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar, highlighting “flaws” in the proposed legislation.