Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal tore into the ruling BJP over the farmers protest on Tuesday afternoon, accusing his former ally of being "the real tukde-tukde gang" and destroying national unity by maliciously "pushing patriotic Punjab into communal flames" for political gain.
Mr Badal - who led the Akalis out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in protest against the farm laws - also said the BJP was "shamelessly" inciting violence between Hindus and Sikhs.
"The BJP is the real tukde tukde gang in the country. It has smashed national unity to pieces... shamelessly inciting Hindus against Muslims and now desperate(ly) setting peace-loving Punjabi Hindus against their Sikh brethren, especially farmers," Mr Badal said at a gathering in Amritsar.
"They're pushing patriotic Punjab into communal flames," he warned.
BJP is the real #TukdeTukdeGang in the country. It has smashed national unity to pieces,shamelessly inciting Hindus against Muslims & now desperate setting peace loving Punjabi Hindus against their Sikh brethren esp #farmers. They're pushing patriotic Punjab into communal flames. pic.twitter.com/7adwVmoDgj— Sukhbir Singh Badal (@officeofssbadal) December 15, 2020
Mr Badal's attack on the BJP underscores the current bad blood between the two parties.
The Akalis used to highlight their relationship with the BJP as one that ensured peace in Punjab after the bloodshed of the 1980s, and blamed the Congress for disharmony between Hindus and Sikhs.
Punjab has emerged as the focal point of a nationwide protest - involving thousands of farmers - against the farm laws. Multiple rounds of talks with the centre have failed; the farmers insist the laws must be scrapped, but the centre is only willing to amend problematic sections.
With the BJP struggling to contain the protests (or make headway in resolving the farmers' issues), conspiracy theories circulating on social media (and repeated by party leaders) have alleged that "anti-national" and "Khalistani" forces are behind the protests.
On Sunday Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the "tukde tukde" gang had taken over the protests. Earlier Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said "Leftist" and "Maoist" elements had hijacked the protests, and the BJP's IT cell chief, Amit Malviya, said "Khalistanis" were involved.
"Tukde tukde" is a term coined by right-wing parties to attack the opposition and their supporters.
Sukhbir Badal had lashed out at these claims , accusing ministers making such statements of "defaming" farmers and calling on them to apologise in public, and, on Monday, he attacked again, saying it had become the centre's policy to label those who disagreed with them as "anti-national".
"If one agrees with NDA he is desh bhakt. If not, he is a desh drohi or extremist or from the 'tukde tukde' gang. Are Parkash Singh Badal, who returned his Padma Vibhushan, or Harsimrat Kaur Badal who resigned from the Union Ministry in protest against the agri laws, deshdrohis?" he asked.
Most condemnable of all is that the farmer agitation is being projected as Sikh vs Hindu conflict. This started in Delhi & now the same forces want to replicate it in Punjab. SAD is very clear - Punjab will prosper only with peace & communal harmony.#100YearsShiromaniAkaliDal— Sukhbir Singh Badal (@officeofssbadal) December 14, 2020
The central government has insisted it remains open to more talks to resolve this crisis.
Earlier today, while speaking at a function in Gujarat's Kutch, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his government "is always committed to farmers' welfare... will keep addressing concerns". The Prime Minister also accused the opposition of misleading the farmers.