Sukhbir’s outreach hits bump, farm union confronts him, says his answers elusive

Talking about farm laws, Sukhbir said it was a fact that Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh was part of the seven-member committee of CMs who framed the three agricultural ordinances.

DAY TWO of Shiromani Akali Dal’s ‘Gall Punjab Di’ poll outreach programme Thursday saw party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal being stopped and grilled by protesting farmers in Ferozepur’s Guru Har Sahai constituency.

Incidentally, Sukhbir had faced protests from farmers on Wednesday as well in Zira, but had dubbed the protesters as members of the Congress. On Thursday, however, there was no escaping for the SAD chief as the farmers, owing allegiance to Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Dakaunda, asked him pointed questions on the new farm laws, and later said they were not satisfied by Sukhbir’s replies.

BKU Dakaunda leader, Harnek Mehma, said, “A day before he had dubbed our group members as Congress workers. So, today we planned to confront him with direct questions. As per the call of Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), we pose questions to every political party while we protest against the BJP leaders. We confronted the SAD president, but were left dissatisfied with most of his answers.”

He added that Sukhbir had come to seek votes, hence the farmers had every right to question him so that they could decide whether they should vote for his party or not.
Mehma said, “He was not very clear about ending privatisation. He did not give any satisfactory reply over allegations of rising corruption in government offices that started during the SAD-BJP regime and continues to date.”

He added that when the group asked him how SAD MLAs, who too were farmers, had assets worth crores, Sukhbir simply said, “I will make sure that all our MLAs work in an upright manner if we are voted to power. We asked him whether his government will press upon the Central government to come out of WTO, and he evaded a reply on this issue.”

Mehma said that Sukhbir was not even clear about cancelling the power purchase agreements signed during the SAD-BJP tenure with private thermal companies.

Meanwhile, Sukhbir claimed that during his interaction with the farmer activists, he asserted that the SAD was the only party that had stood against the Centre by voting against the three black laws in the Parliament, even as both the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chose to abstain from voting.

He added that he stopped his vehicle and went up to the BKU (Dakaunda) activists and explained to them how the SAD had done its utmost to thwart the passage of the three farm laws in the Parliament last year and how it continued to raise the voice of farmers during the last session.

Talking about farm laws, Sukhbir said it was a fact that Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh was part of the seven-member committee of CMs who framed the three agricultural ordinances. He said the CM had also amended the APMC Act to make it in conformance with the three new farm laws passed by the government.

Sukhbir said he told the BKU representatives that the moment the three ordinances were presented in the Parliament, the then Union minister, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, had protested against the same. “The farmer leaders told us to vote against the three bills and specifically said that we should not stage a walkout or abstain from voting. We conveyed the reservations of the farming community to the Centre and also requested that the ordinances be kept in abeyance by referring them to a Select Committee. But the government did not heed this advice. Subsequently, Harsimrat Badal and I were the only two MPs who voted against the Bills in the Lok Sabha even as the Congress and AAP abstained. Following this Harsimrat Badal also resigned from the cabinet and the SAD quit the NDA alliance. Former Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal, also called me and said `that we cannot remain in any alliance which takes decisions against the interests of our anndatas.”

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