Harsimrat Kaur Badal: Harsimrat Kaur Badal has resigned as union minister
Akali Dal's lone Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet on Thursday as her party faced heat from farmers over its initial support to ally BJP's farm sector bills. Ms Badal, who attended the cabinet meet that cleared the bills, stepped down shortly before the bills were passed by the Lok Sabha, tweeting that she was "Proud to stand with farmers as their daughter & sister". Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Badal said for now, they would support the government from outside but oppose "anti-farmer policies". But amid Congress pressure about the continuation of its alliance with the BJP, he said the matter will be decided later at a party meeting."Farm bills clearing Lok Sabha is a historic moment for the farmers in the country and the agricultural sector. These bills, in true sense, will eliminate bottlenecks and middlemen," PM Modi tweeted in Hindi.
"A lot of people are trying to mislead the farmers. I want to assure my brothers that MSP and government purchase will continue. These bills, in true sense, are meant to empower the farmers," he added.
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The Produce Trade and Commerce and the Price Assurance and Farm Services bills sailed through Lok Sabha as the opposition parties walked out. Most of the opposition parties and some of those that lend issue-based support to the government, including Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal and the TRS, were opposed to the bills.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said Harsimrat Kaur's resignation was "too little too late". Pointing to the Akali Dal's decision to continue as part of the ruling NDA, he said the resignation was nothing more than a "gimmick" to fool the farmers of Punjab.
Asked whether the Akali Dal would continue its alliance with the BJP, Mr Badal told NDTV, "See we are the founder members of the NDA. But with the situation, our party will meet. We will look at the situation. In our party there is a core committee which takes all the decisions".
The bills -- which the BJP claims is big ticket reform in the agri-sector -- have hugely upset the farmers of Punjab and Haryana, who have been holding protests for weeks. The government said the bills, which would replace the three ordinances issued in June, will help farmers across the country get a better market and price for their produce.
The Akalis, who initially supported the proposed laws, made a U-turn this week after realising the depth of the farmers' resentment. The party had appealed to the Centre to hold off the bills till the farmers' concerns were addressed. But with the BJP deciding to push through the bills, the Akalis decided to vote against it.
Earlier, Mr Badal had claimed that Harsimrat Kaur had "expressed reservations when the matter was taken up during a cabinet meeting". She had said her ministry opposed the proposal during the inter-ministerial consultation too.
But most political parties have been skeptical. Calling the claim "totally wrong", Punjab Health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said, "If you are genuinely sympathetic towards the interests of farmers and Punjab, then immediately break the party's ties with the Modi government at the Centre", reported news agency PTI.
"Farmers' trust in Shiromani Akali Dal is sacred to us and we are proud to preserve the glorious legacy of fight for farmers," Harsimrat Kaur Badal said. "I have resigned from Union Cabinet in protest against anti-farmer ordinances and legislation. Proud to stand with farmers as their daughter & sister," she tweeted later.
"I feel very sad. We have the longest relationship. It is very unfortunate that the present government didn't listen to the views. I had no choice but to withdraw support," Sukhbir Badal told NDTV. "I had said before that if you make some changes and adjustments to the bill then yes. Spent two months trying to convince the government. It couldn't be done," he added.
On Tuesday, Mr Badal voted against the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to deregulate agricultural food items, including cereals, pulses and onion.