On Thursday, the Central ruling BJP party has met with the signal of losing one of its arms in the ruling coalition after the long-time ally of the Modi's camp torched the dissent against the Central government in the bid to stand with the farmers in Punjab, who have been agitating against the Center's controversial bills that have been labeled to go in contrary to the interests of farmers in the small yet significant state with the strong corridors of agriculture.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which has been observing alliance with the ruling BJP government at the Center, had, in a stint to reiterate its support for farmers, sent a major setback to the Modi government after the only representative of the party in the Union Cabinet had emptied her berth by tendering resignation from the Modi's government. On Thursday, hours after the Punjab based party had voiced against the controversial bills in the Lok Sabha, SAD member Harsimrat Kaur Badal had resigned from the Union Cabinet in protest against the bills.
Badal had been a part of the Modi cabinet since 2014 and she was serving as the Union Minister of Food Processing Industries. On Thursday, following rendering her resignation, she took to Twitter and said, "I have resigned from Union Cabinet in protest against anti-farmer ordinances and legislation. Proud to stand with farmers as their daughter & sister". Her resignation from Modi's cabinet has come hours after she lauded the Prime Minister on his tireless efforts and dedication in making India self-reliant are inspirational for everyone.
I have resigned from Union Cabinet in protest against anti-farmer ordinances and legislation. Proud to stand with farmers as their daughter & sister.— Harsimrat Kaur Badal (@HarsimratBadal_) September 17, 2020
The state of Punjab has been witnessing unprecedented agitation from farmers over the controversial bills that the Center mulled to enact as law. While the Center expected to get the bill through the Parliament with no major agitations, the large-scale protests by farmers that emerged from Punjab had added pressure to it and pushed the SAD, which pedals through the support of farmers, to step down from the Union Cabinet, as Harsimrat Kaur Badal has become the first minister to quit from the Modi's second term of government.
Speaking about the bills in Lok Sabha, SAD President and husband of quitted Union Minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal had staunchly opposed the bills in the lower house by claiming that they will destroy the farmers and agricultural sector in Punjab and stated that Union Minster Harsimrat Badal will resign from the government to support the protest of the farmers.
The uproar from the state-based party had birthed as the sequel of the three ordinances that the Center had proposed - The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020. According to reports, the SAD party had initially defended these ordinances with the view of the coalition.
However, after the farmers in the state had triggered agitation following their fears that the bills would let the private players enter the markets, the SAD had perceived about the protests and sent solidarity to the farmers, who are the larger voter base for the party in the state. In the wake of the farmers' protests, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal said that the proposed laws will destroy the fifty years of hard work put in by the successive state governments in Punjab and farmers to build the agriculture sector.
He further stated that these three bills are going to affect 20 lakh farmers and 15 to 20 lakh laborers in Punjab. Earlier, while supporting the bills, the SAD president had accused the Congress Chief Minister of Punjab of misleading the farmers. However, the agitation from the farmers had driven SAD and Congress to speak in one voice. In his address, Sukhbir Singh Badal had recalled Punjab's massive contribution in making India self-sufficient in food grain production.
By citing that these bills seek to replace the ordinances already issued by the government, Badal added that Punjab, with its 2.5 percent of the country's landmass produces nearly 50 percent of food grains for the country. In what has become a setback for the Modi government, Shiromani Akali Dal's opposition against the bill has been crafted to ensure that their backbone of the voter bank won't get scattered. Earlier this week, Sukhbir Badal said, "Every Akali is a farmer and every farmer is an Akali".
The agitation from the farmers was due to the fear and uncertainty that they might endure after the bills get shaped as an act. Farmers fear that the bills will invite the private players into the markets and the farmers will no longer get paid at MSP (Minimum Support Price) for the produces whereas the agents in the state fear they ought to lose their commission. According to the study of Punjab Agricultural University, there are over 12 lakh farming families in Punjab and 28,000 registered commission agents.
With the demand to revoke the bills, the farmers' unions in the state had come together by breaking the party lines to oppose the ordinances proposed by the Center. The farmers in some of the villages had warned the political leaders who support the bills not to enter their villages. The agitation has been spreading rampantly across the state as the territory that is largely filled with the peasants has been witnessing the large-scale protests. Punjab is known for largely cultivating wheat and the protests had raised speculations whether there would be the dearth of supply in the crop.
To intensify the agitation, the farmers' body has, on Thursday, had announced that it would stop the trains in Punjab from September 24 to 26. To take their protests to the attention of the entire nation amid the ongoing Parliamentary session, the farmers have decided to stage the protest by stopping the trains in Punjab from September 24 to 26 against the farm bills and they have also been planning to hold a bandh to press their voices against the Center.
Harsimrat Kaur Badal had sent a four-page resignation letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday had scathingly penned that the Central government hasn't taken farmers on board regarding these bills in the albeit of her persistent please and repeated efforts from her party. By citing that every member of her party is a farmer, she said that the party is continuing its age-old tradition of being a champion of farmers' interests.
On Friday, President Ram Nath Kovind had accepted her resignation based on the advice from the Prime Minister and directed Cabinet Minister Narendra Singh Tomar to take care of the portfolio left vacant by Harsimrat Badal as an additional charge. Opposition parties including Congress had slashed the Center against the bills by calling it 'anti-farmers' and some of the Congress MPs had also burnt copies of the bills in the parliament complex by claiming that these bills would severely hit small and marginal farmers. However, of three ordinances, two were passed in Lok Sabha and will now be tabled in Rajya Sabha.
Harsimrat Kaur’s decision to quit Union Cabinet is another in the long chain of theatrics being enacted by @Akali_Dal_ which has still not quit ruling coalition. It's motivated not by any concern for farmers but to save their own dwindling political fortunes. Too little too late.— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) September 17, 2020
Though Congress voiced against the bills, it also has criticized the SAD party where Punjab Chief Minister Amrinder Singh has said that Harsimrat Kaur's decision to quit the Union Cabinet is another in the long chain of theatrics being enacted by Akali Dal which has still not quit the ruling coalition. However, the SAD party said that it would be deciding soon on whether to stay in the ruling NDA. Speaking about the bills, Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said that these bills will increase competition and promote private investment which will help in the development of farm infrastructure and generate employment. Amid the fears and protests from the farmers, Prime Minister Modi vowed that the bills are shields to protect farmers from middlemen.