President Ram Nath Kovind on September 18 accepted Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s resignation from the Union Council of Ministers with immediate effect.
The President also directed Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar to take charge of the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, the ministry held by Badal, in addition to his existing portfolios.
Badal, a senior leader of the SAD, an ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had submitted her resignation from her post over the Centre’s farm ordinances, which have triggered farmers' protests across Punjab and Haryana.
"I have resigned from Union Cabinet in protest against anti-farmer ordinances and legislation. Proud to stand with farmers as their daughter & sister," Harsimrat said in a tweet on September 17.
In her resignation letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she said that the farmer and her party are "synonymous" since SAD is "inspired by egalitarian vision of the founder of Sikh faith, Shri Guru Nanak Dev who spent nearly 20 years working in his fields at Kartarpur Sahib as a humble farmer".
"It's enough to show what farmers mean to SAD," she had said in the letter, adding that she will "forever remain grateful for the trust you reposed in me to work for our great nation under your visionary leadership".
"SAD member and Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal will resign from government to protest farm bills," SAD Member of Parliament (MP) Sukhbir Singh Badal had had informed the Lok Sabha, where two of the three contentious bills -- The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 -- were being debated.
Farmers in Punjab and Haryana have been protesting against three ordinances promulgated by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government on June 5.
With Legislative Assembly polls in Punjab just 18 months away, the development will have direct implications on politics in the state, where SAD has supported farmer protests. However, the party has said that it will continue to remain a part of the NDA.
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SAD had voted against the contentious Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 that was passed in the Lok Sabha on September 15.
In his speech during a discussion on two of the farm bills on September 17, Sukhbir Singh Badal said the proposed laws will "destroy" the 50 years of hard work done by successive Punjab governments to build the farm sector.
He recalled Punjab's massive contribution in making India self-sufficient in food grain production as he vehemently opposed the bills.
Earlier, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had dared Harsimrat Kaur Badal and SAD president Sukhbir Badal to quit the BJP-led NDA. The Grand Old Party's MPs had also burnt copies of the bills, and had staged a protest in front of Mahatma Gandhi's statue in Parliament Complex and raised slogans against the government.
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On its part, the BJP has defended the bills and the party's president, J P Nadda had on September 16 called them "far-sighted and revolutionary".
Harsimrat was the only SAD representative in the Narendra Modi Cabinet. The Punjab-based party is the oldest BJP ally.