In a surprise announcement on Friday, on the occasion of Guruparab, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the repeal of the three contentious farm laws after months of protests by farmers.
Shiromani Akali Dal had snapped its long-standing ties with the NDA government after the Centre passed farm laws last year.
Following the Modi government's U-turn on the issue, former Rajya Sabha MP and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Naresh Gujral spoke to Outlook on the political ramifications of the Union Government’s decision to repeal the three contentious farm laws.
How do you react to the Prime Minister’s announcement of the repeal of three contentious farm laws?
We welcome it. Even a year ago, when the laws were being passed, my party had repeatedly said in Lok Sabha as well that they should be sent to a select committee. Unfortunately, our advice was not heeded and as a result, we had to break the alliances with the NDA. We were the oldest and most steadfast allies of the NDA. But we were forced to leave on this issue because we are a farmer's party. And obviously, today, when these black laws have been repealed, we are rejoicing along with our fellow farmers.
Will you review the party’s ties with the BJP?
It's too early to say. But we have to see how the situation crystallizes and what other steps the government takes in the coming budget. What other steps will the government take to ensure that more benefits are given to the farmers? Akali Dal is predominantly a party of farmers. Our core committee will meet soon and reflect and make decisions. This will make a huge realignment of forces in Punjab in a big way. It needs to be seen which way the farm unions will go. Congress would certainly suffer some damage inflicted by Amarinder Singh. Only time will tell who is the ultimate beneficiary. Akali Dal rallies are receiving massive crowds and support. We are extremely hopeful.
This will be seen as a victory for former Congress leader Amrinder Singh as he has been exerting pressure on BJP to repeal the laws.
These all are all optics. The fact of the matter is that the government was feeling the heat. After all, we are all living in a democracy. And in a democracy, the will of the people is supreme, and a government that refuses to recognize the will of the people bites the dust. Now, with the UP elections coming and elections in Punjab coming, they could see the writing on the wall. But to give credit to Amarinder Singh for this would be foolhardy. The credit should be given to the farmers and the farmers organizations who fought valiantly and almost 1000 farmers have martyred their lives for the sake of this call. The entire rural population of Punjab and Haryana and UP stood steadfast with their brethren
Do you think this will turn the tide in favour of BJP?
The BJP has alienated the farmers and it will take a long time to heal these wounds. We have seen how some Sikh farmers have been mowed down so callously by the Union Minister's son. People are not going to forget this in a hurry,