Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday ridiculed the SAD’s decision to form a panel to hold talks with farmers, saying no overtures can absolve the Badals of their responsibility in “thrusting the draconian farm laws” on the farming community. Alleging that the Badals themselves are at the root of the problem and the co-conspirators of the Centre’s “anti-farmer agenda”, Singh said the Akalis neither deserve nor can expect any understanding or forgiveness from the farmers.
Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal on Friday had put on hold for six days his party’s poll outreach campaign ‘Gal Punjab Di’ and had formed a committee to hold talks with farmers to reiterate Akalis’ unflinching support for their agitation against the Centre’s three farm laws.
The Akalis’ move came after a group of farmers allegedly tried to force their way inside the venue of a SAD event in Punjab’s Moga district on Thursday.
Police had resorted to baton charge and used a water cannon to disperse the farmers.
The Punjab chief minister, in a statement, on Saturday said the Akalis’ “apathy” towards the farmers was evident from the fact that even now, instead of understanding and relating with the pain of the farmers, Sukhbir Badal was refusing to simply recognise the protesters as farmers and was insulting them by alleging that they owed allegiance to other political parties, including the Congress.
“If you (Sukhbir Badal) cannot even recognise a farmer when you see one, how can you ever hope to gain their trust and confidence?” Singh asked.
The senior Congress leader termed Sukhbir Badal’s announcement of the suspension of the SAD’s election outreach programme and formation of the panel to engage with the farmers as a “desperate measure” to woo Punjab’s voters ahead of the 2022 assembly polls.
“But the farmers and the people of Punjab are not fools, and your attempts to fool them with lies will backfire on you,” he told the SAD president.
Singh claimed that the state had completely and unequivocally rejected the Akalis, who had first “looted” them for 10 years in coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and then “cruelly worked hand in glove with it to impose the farm laws on the farmers”.
The chief minister said the SAD was an integral part of the ruling NDA at the Centre all through the farm laws legislation process, with Harsimrat Kaur Badal at that time a member of the Union Cabinet which approved the ordinance that spelt the “death knell” for the farmers.
“Their dramatic split from the National Democratic Alliance subsequently was nothing but an attempt at eyewash. All that the Badals are interested in is getting back into the saddle by hook or by crook,” Singh said.
“Having failed in getting the faith of the farmers restored with their crocodile tears, the Akalis were now pretending to engage with them,” he added.
(With inputs from PTI)