Regional parties should come together and form a national front to take on the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Shriomani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal said on Sunday and asserted that his party's story with the BJP was over.
Underlining that issues of farmers are at the core of the SAD ideology, Mr Badal said his party can never compromise on these and, therefore, severed its decades-old alliance with the BJP and moved out of the government at the Centre over three contentious farm laws.
"SAD is a farmers' party and their issues are core of our ideology. Whatever may happen and whatever cost we may have to pay, we wouldn't let these laws be implemented in Punjab," Mr Badal said.
The Centre's three farm laws have triggered a protest by farmers.
In September last year, Mr Badal's wife Harsimrat Kaur quit as Union minister in protest against the legislations.
The protesting farmers claim these laws will do away with the minimum support price system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporations. Over 10 rounds of talks with the government, which has been projecting the laws as major agricultural reforms, have failed to break the deadlock between the two sides.
Talking about the SAD's new alliance with the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Mr Badal said the alliance between the two parties is permanent and that the Akali Dal's story with the BJP was over.
On the party's future course of action, Mr Badal said that the SAD is talking to various regional parties so that they all can come on one platform before the 2024 general elections.
"There is a need for regional forces to get together. Regional forces are more connected to the ground and have better understanding of the people. We have been talking to various parties. Regional parties should come together and form a front before the 2024 general elections. And I am sure before 2024 this front will emerge as very strong force," he said.
Mr Badal further said it would be a second front rather than a third front as the main opposition Congress is no more a pan-India party. The BJP will be the new front's main target.
In the upcoming assembly elections in Punjab, Mr Badal said, farm laws will be the main issue for the Akali Dal and "if the party is voted to power, it will provide government job to a family member of all those farmers who lost their lives during the ongoing protest against the laws."
In addition, the government will provide free education to the children of the farmers who have died and pension to the parents of those who died young, Mr Badal said.
He also said the SAD will bet big on new and young faces and will try to field as many women as possible in the assembly elections slated for early next year.
On a question about reports of alleged snooping on politicians, activists and journalists using Pegasus spyware, Mr Badal termed it an attack on democracy and demanded establishment of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) headed by an opposition MP to probe the matter.
"This entire snooping episode is an attack on the Constitution, democracy and rights of the people. It is completely unethical and a JPC should be formed headed by an opposition MP to investigate it," Mr Badal said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)