Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President Sukhbir Singh Badal condemned the centre for not restarting freight train services to Punjab despite the fact that all railway tracks had been cleared and said it was wrong to treat farmers agitating against the central agri-marketing acts as enemies of the State.
Sukhbir Badal made this statement during the course of a press conference here in which he welcoming Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Spokesman and former Tarn Taran district President R P Singh Maini into the SAD.
Describing Mr Maini as a young and capable leader, the SAD President announced the former’s appointment as party Spokesman. He also announced that Mr Maini would be given due honour and recognition in the party.
Speaking about the virtual economic blockade being imposed on Punjab, Mr Badal said the centre should not make the issue of restarting train services to Punjab a prestige issue and should not put conditions on farmers. “The farmers had held a ‘rail roko’ agitation to press for repeal of the central agri marketing laws. They have vacated the rail tracks since more than one week. However the central government is not restarting trains on one flimsy excuse or the other. Such conduct is not advisable in a democracy. The centre should not try to use heavy handed tactics against the farmers”
The SAD President also castigated chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh for doing nothing to resolve the crisis except hold a one hour “protest” at Delhi solely for the benefit of the cameras. He said the chief minister should tell Punjabis why he had failed to meet either the Railways minister or seek time from the Prime Minister to pressurize the centre to restart freight train services to Punjab. He said the Congress government had not only failed to ensure the voice of the farmers was heard in Delhi but was also colluding with the centre to ensure they did not get any relief.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Maini said he had resigned from the BJP in protest against the party’s refusal to repeal the three central agri marketing laws as well as its discriminatory attitude towards Punjabi language in Jammu and Kashmir. He also asserted that the BJP central leadership had turned its back to Punjab. Asserting that the BJP followed a one way traffic system in which directions came to State units from the top, Mr Maini said even the Punjab BJP unit did not carry any weight at the centre. “I have decided to now serve the SAD which has always stood with the farming community and is committed to more powers to the States”. Mr Maini said the sacrifice made by Mrs Harsimrat Kaur Badal in resigning from the cabinet had also made a deep impact on him and given him the courage to the leave the BJP.
Meanwhile answering a question about future alliances, Mr Sukhbir Badal said the SAD was being strengthened in all 117 constituencies. He said as of now there was no NDA. “The Janata Dal (United) was the last partner in the NDA but after the BJP’s deal with Mr Ram Vilas Paswan’s party the JD (U) is also likely to exit the NDA”. He also rued the Congress government was discriminating against the holy city and that all development had come to a standstill.
“We will take Amritsar’s development to the international level once we form the government after one year”, Mr Badal added.
Senior leader Mr Bikram Singh Majithia also spoke on the occasion and welcomed Mr R P Singh Maini into the SAD.