- SAD became the third major NDA member to pull out of the grouping
- The party had initially supported the bills
- Farmers fear the bills will end the price support system or MSP
The Shiromani Akali Dal, the oldest ally of the BJP, on Saturday said it was quitting the ruling party's National Democratic Alliance (NDA) after sharp differences over the three controversial farm sector bills adopted earlier this month.
"The highest decision-making body of the Shiromani Akali Dal core committee at its emergency meeting here tonight decided unanimously to pull out of the BJP -led NDA alliance," Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said in Chandigarh, calling the bills "lethal and disastrous" for its key voter base of farmers.
He said the decision to quit the NDA was taken "because of the centre's stubborn refusal to give statutory legislative guarantees to protect assured marketing of farmers crops on MSP (Minimum Support Price) and its continued insensitivity to Punjabi and Sikh issues like excluding Punjabi language as official language in Jammu and Kashmir."
With this, the SAD became the third major NDA member to pull out of the grouping after the Shiv Sena and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
Mr Badal said the Akalis will continue to stand by its core principles of peace, communal harmony and guard the interest of Punjab and Punjabis and Sikhs and farmers in particular. The decision has been taken in consultation with the people of Punjab, especially party workers and farmers, he added.
The party, which initially supported the bills before realising the extent of discontent against them, counts a vast swathe of its voter base in farmers in Punjab who have vehemently opposed the new laws.
Farmers fear the laws will end the price support system or MSP and drive the entry of private players who, they say, will put small and marginal farmers at risk.
Mr Badal's wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal had resigned as a union minister in protest last week as the bills were pushed through parliament amid a huge outcry by the opposition and a contentious voice vote.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has defended the bills as reforms to help rid India's vast agriculture sector of antiquated laws and allow farmers to sell to institutional buyers and big retailers such as Walmart.
The government insists the new rules give farmers the option to sell their produce to private buyers while it would still purchase staples such as rice and wheat at guaranteed prices.
But such assurances have failed to mollify farmers in Punjab and Haryana who took to the streets, blocking roads and railway tracks on Friday in a protest.