Punjab’s Akali Dal Quits BJP-Led Alliance Over Controversial Farm Bills

The Akali Dal said they quit the alliance over the controversial Farm Bills (File)

New Delhi:

The Shiromani Akali Dal, one of the oldest allies of the BJP, on Saturday said it was quitting the ruling party’s National Democratic Alliance (NDA) after sharp differences over the three controversial farm sector bills adopted earlier this month.

Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal had earlier said the Akalis – who initially supported the bills – are reviewing ties with ruling party, and had also requested President Ram Nath Kovind to “please stand by farmers” and not sign off on the laws.

The Akali Dal draws a large swathe of its voter base from farmers in Punjab who have vehemently opposed the new laws over fears of it ending the price support system (MSP) and the entry of private players who, they say, will put small and marginal farmers at risk.

Mr Badal’s wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal had resigned as a union minister in protest last week as the bills were pushed through parliament amid a huge outcry by the opposition and a contentious voice vote.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has defended the bills as reforms to help rid India’s vast agriculture sector of antiquated laws and allow farmers to sell to institutional buyers and big retailers such as Walmart.

The government insists the new rules give farmers the option to sell their produce to private buyers while it would still purchase staples such as rice and wheat at guaranteed prices.

But such assurances have failed to mollify millions of farmers in Punjab and Haryana that saw thousands taking to the streets, blocking roads and railway tracks on Friday in a protest.

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