Slamming SAD for its concerted attempt to divert public attention from its failure to protect the rights and interests of the farmers, a group of Punjab Congress leaders, including PPCC president and Cabinet Ministers, on Thursday said that in sharp contrast to the Akalis, the Congress was totally in unison over the Farm Bills, and had not needed a whip to vote against the Union Government’s reprehensible bid to destroy the state’s agriculture.

They were reacting to the statement of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema over the fact that the Chief Minister had led a delegation yesterday to submit a memorandum to the Governor on the issue ‘instead of directing his MPs to express solidarity with the farming community by voting against the agri ordinances.’

“The Congress MPs have been fighting against these dangerous anti-Punjab ordinances from the outset and knew which way to vote, unlike those of the SAD, whose MPs were totally lost due to the total lack of clarity or direction from their leadership, which has been changing its stance on key issues to suit their personal interests,” said Manish Tiwari, himself an MP. He was joined by PPCC president, Sunil Jakhar, and cabinet ministers, Manpreet Badal, Sukhjinder Randhawa and Bharat Bhushan Ashu.

The Congress MPs, not just from Punjab but around the country, had voted against the bills, which, unfortunately, the BJP-led NDA, of which the Akalis continue shamelessly to be a part, succeeded in passing through brute majority in the House by voice vote, they said in a statement.

The Congress members of Parliament already had clear directions from the party leadership, including Captain Amarinder Singh as well as the high command in Delhi, on the party’s stand on the Ordinances, which the Akalis openly and clearly supported at the time of their introduction, they said. “Why would they need new directions, given that there had been no change in Captain Amarinder’s or Congress stand on the issue, unlike SAD’s Sukhbir Badal?” they quipped.

They pointed out that it was SAD, along with the BJP, which had refused to reject the Ordinances during all-party meet convened by Captain Amarinder, and had subsequently stayed away from the Vidhan Sabha session to avoid voting for the resolution against the same. The sudden U-turn by SAD president Sukhbir Badal thereafter naturally left the Akali MPs at a loss to figure out what their party’s stand was, necessitating a whip to vote against the Bills in Parliament, they added.

The Congress, with its principled stand on the issue all through, did not need to issue any such whip, said the Congress leaders, adding that these theatrics by SAD would not help undo the damage they had already done to the farmers of Punjab and, in fact, the entire country. Nor would their crocodile tears befool the people of Punjab, on which the Akalis had inflicted massive damage during 10 years of their misrule and whose interests they shamelessly continued to harm as a member of the Union Government.

Even now, they said, Sukhbir and his wife Harsimrat Badal, a minister in the Union Cabinet, continue to cling to their pretense of power in the NDA in the hope of promoting their petty personal interests. “Why has Harsimrat not quit the Cabinet? Why has Sukhbir not pulled SAD out of the NDA even after the Narendra Modi government failed to address their purported concerns on the farm Bills?” asked the Congress ministers & MPs, adding that the entire drama had clearly been enacted by the Akalis for public consumption, with no intent whatsoever to protect the interests of Punjab and its farmers.

SAD has not only made a mockery of itself but has also thrown Punjab’s interests to the wind with their shocking display of double standards on this grave issue, which would affect the state’s agriculture and further devastate its fragile economy, they said.

The Congress leaders expressed shock at Cheema’s dismissal of the Chief Minister’s submission to the Governor as a photo-op, saying it was obvious that the Akalis did not want the Congress to succeed in raising the grave issue at any important forum.

As for acting against the Union Minister of State Raosaheb Danve, who had misled the Parliament with his false statement on Punjab’s stand in the high-powered committee on the ordinances, they pointed out that Captain Amarinder had already sought an unequivocal apology from the minister. But the Chief Minister’s priority was not taking on one central minister but to try and stop the Centre’s dangerous Bills, which the Akalis were responsible for bringing to Parliament in the first place, they said, adding that diverting attention from major issues was an Akali forte and the Congress believed in focusing on the main issue at hand, which in this case was to oppose the anti-farmer and anti-federal Bills.

The Congress will continue to fight against these legislations within and outside Parliament and will not get sidetracked by the SAD drama, the party leaders asserted.

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