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    Shiromani Akali Dal and Congress accusing each other over the issue of the agriculture bills

    Synopsis

    Both Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh and the Sukhbir Badal-Harsimrat Kaur Badal duo of the SAD promised to stand with the farmers during the upcoming farmer protests against the bills. On Friday, voices also emerged from within the SAD to withdraw from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and contest the next assembly elections alone.

    Agencies
    The CM said people would punish the SAD for contributing to the crisis by supporting the ordinances when they were brought earlier.
    New Delhi: About a year and a half before Punjab goes to the polls, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Congress are accusing each other over who sat on the issue of the agriculture bills brought by the Centre that have incensed farmers in the state. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which came second in the previous assembly election, has also latched onto the issue.

    Both Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh and the Sukhbir Badal-Harsimrat Kaur Badal duo of the SAD promised to stand with the farmers during the upcoming farmer protests against the bills. On Friday, voices also emerged from within the SAD to withdraw from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and contest the next assembly elections alone. “We have always been ready to fight alone… we do not need crutches,” said the SAD’s Rajya Sabha member Balwinder Singh Bhunder. Sukhbir Badal said the party’s core committee will take a decision on the issue soon.

    Amarinder Singh on Friday questioned why the Akalis “continue shamelessly to be part of the NDA” at the cost of their own state and its people and termed the resignation of Harsimrat Kaur Badal as a Union cabinet minister a “gimmick”. The CM said people would punish the SAD for contributing to the crisis by supporting the ordinances when they were brought earlier. Congress’ Rajya Sabha member Partap Singh Bajwa said the Akalis had even fielded Prakash Singh Badal to defend the ordinances earlier and not attended the assembly session called in Punjab, where a resolution was passed condemning the ordinances.

    The Badal duo hit back saying the Congress had made promises to the same effect as the ordinances in the party’s manifestos in the 2017 and 2019 elections. “I pointed out my objections during inter-ministerial consultations and at cabinet meetings. We wanted the bills to be sent to a select committee,” said Harsimrat. Sukhbir asked why Captain Amarinder Singh had not raised objections despite being part of a committee of seven CMs set up by the Centre to discuss the bills. “Even yesterday, while both me and Harsimrat voted against the bill while Congress merely walked out of the house,” said Sukhbir.

    The CM countered that the issue of the ordinances or new laws on agriculture was never discussed at any of the meetings in which Punjab was represented in the high-powered committee set up by the Centre on agricultural reforms. “The high-powered committee was an eye-wash and the draft report shared with Punjab had no mention whatsoever of the ordinances,” he said. He said had the SAD instead stood with him and put pressure on the BJP, the present situation would not have arisen. Bajwa said no voting was done and the bills were passed in the Lok Sabha by a voice vote. “So our MPs walked out,” said Bajwa.

    AAP is meanwhile smelling an opportunity in Punjab again after its Lok Sabha MP Bhagwant Mann protested against the bills vociferously. Arvind Kejriwal on Friday appealed to all opposition parties to together vote against the bill in Rajya Sabha rather than staging a walk-out.
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