New Delhi: Senior SAD leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who on Thursday (September 17) resigned from the Union cabinet soon after her husband and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal opposed farm bills in Lok Sabha, claiming that these proposed legislations will destroy the agriculture sector in Punjab. He also announced that Harsimrat Kaur Badal will quit the government in protest against these three bills.
Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Friday told Zee News said that she feels "saddened" that her voice in support of farmers was not heard and demanded that the government should pause on these legislations by referring them to a parliamentary panel for wider consultations.
A day after resigning from Union Cabinet in protest against farm bills, the senior SAD made her stand clear on the farm bills. Key points of her interview are:
She said, "I kept on protesting ever since these ordinances were circulated for comments in the Cabinet. I was acting like a bridge between farmers and the government to clear all doubts and fears of farmers. I kept on pleading that the government should not bring these bills until all apprehensions and fears of farmers are cleared."
Harsimrat Kaur Badal further said that she felt saddened about the fact that my voice was not heard in the Cabinet and the government did not send it to a parliamentary select committee for consultations with all stakeholders including farmers, adding "If my voice had been heard, farmers would not have come out on roads to protest."
She said that there is no point in bringing these bills while presenting them as being in the interest of farmers when the farmers themselves have apprehensions about these measures.
On her resignation, she said, "Please don't see this as a resignation, as this was my duty as a representative of Punjab and of farmers."
On Punjab Chief Minister and Congress leader Amarinder Singh calling her resignation a "drama", she said, "He himself is the biggest drama and the biggest liar."
She said that Amarinder Singh and Congress are doing double-speak, and added "When these ordinances were planned, all chief ministers were consulted and he had concurred. Also, these three bills were part of the Congress party's manifesto for the 2017 assembly elections manifesto and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections."
Describing her tenure as minister as "a remarkable and most memorable period of my life", Harsimrat Kaur Badal said that she was satisfied that the NDA-led government delivered on many critical and long-standing issues of the Sikh community, including justice for 1984 riots victims.
She also recounted the historic opening of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor and GST waiver on 'langar', permission granted to foreign donations to the Darbar Sahib as major achievements.
Notably, SAD voted against the three bills -- Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, which were passed by voice vote in Lok Sabha.
Congress and several other opposition parties are also opposing these bills, while SAD is the only NDA member to come out against these proposed legislations that seek to replace the ordinances already promulgated by the government.
Large-scale protests by farmers in Punjab against these measures have put the regional party, which draws its support mainly from peasants, under pressure, culminating in the resignation of its only representative in the government.
BJP and SAD have been seen as natural allies which date back to the days of Jan Sangh, the precursor of the saffron party. Both parties have been contesting elections in alliance since 1997. Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who first became Union Minister for Food Processing in 2014 and retained the portfolio in the second term of the BJP-led NDA government starting 2019.
Asked whether SAD would pull out of the NDA also, she said that it was for the party to decide and a collective decision would be taken on that issue by all senior leaders together. Assembly elections are due in Punjab in 2022. She also recalled this decades-old association between the two parties in her resignation letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday.