Prime Minister Narendra Modi spooked every political analyst in the world by announcing the repeal of three controversial farm laws passed last year against which farmers have been protesting for more than a year.
Making the surprise announcement during a televised speech that was broadcast live, PM Modi said:
“Today, I have come to tell you, the whole country, that we have decided to withdraw all three agricultural laws.
“In the parliament session starting later this month, we will complete the constitutional process to repeal these three agricultural laws.”
Many naïve observers along with opposition parties who have been upstaged by PM Modi label it as a “backdown” by the Modi government.
The fact is – it is not.
The move was writ large in the Modi camp’s meetings with the ousted (forced to resign) former chief minister of Punjab Captain Amrinder Singh.
Something that sounded incredulous at the time, the Captain had said the solution to farmers’ protests was nigh.
It had to be before 2022 elections in Punjab. It has been delivered.
Over to the dexterous head honchos skilled in political manoeuvres to out the deals done and seat sharing arrangements in Punjab. Will be out soon.
Why ditch its ally – the Akali Dal?
Modi-Shah camp were hurt when their political ally in Punjab and partner in the Central government’s cabinet – decided to quit the coalition last year to join the protesting farmers rather than assisting the government to sell its farming reforms.
Mrs Harsimrat Kaur Badal, wife of Sukhbir Singh Badal and daughter-in-law of the octogenarian father of Punjab politics Prakash Singh Badal was Minister of Food Processing Industries in Modi government at the time the bills were drafted and later passed by the government. She had held the ministry since 2014, Modi’s first Ministry.
She resigned against the passing of these farm laws.
Here’s a timeline of events since the laws were introduced:
June 5, 2020: The government promulgates three ordinances.
September 14, 2020: Three farm bills brought to Parliament.
September 17, 2020: The bills are passed in Lok Sabha.
September 17, 2020: Harsmirat Kaur Badal resigns from ministry in Modi government.
September 20, 2020: The bills are passed in Rajya Sabha by voice vote.
Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned on the day the bills were passed in the Lok Sabha. Curiously, her resignation was announced by (not her but) her husband Sukhbir Badal, for chief minister and deputy chief minister of Punjab, himself a member of parliament in the Centre government from Ferozepur.
Sukhbir entered the national parliament in Delhi in 2019 after, although having won his own seat, his party failed miserably in 2017. The thrashing the Akali Dal suffered in Punjab polls at the hands of Captain Amrinder Singh was spectacular. Akali Dal’s tally of 68 seats in the house was reduced to a mere 18 while the Congress party led by Captain Amrinder Singh increased its seats moving up from 46 to 77.
To make matters worse for the Akali Dal, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) secured 20 seats having held no seats in 2012.
Sukhbir’s move to Delhi, with a track record of sorts – as ally of the BJP and having run the state of Punjab had its own expectations.
But Modi minders did not give any extra weight to the Badals. Only Harsimrat was offered to retain her ministry, the same as in 2014 Modi cabinet.
Also read: Government offers to put Farm Laws on hold
Modi minders could have picked up Sukhbir as a minister but he would not be happy with his wife’s portfolio. No trading was allowed and he was left out.
It would not have gone well with the Badals.
After missing out on a cabinet berth in Modi 2.0 cabinet, having run the state government in Punjab almost as a family enterprise, the Badals were in search of an issue to fight their way back into the political reckoning.
And farm laws – the Badals calculated would endear them to farmers in Punjab without much effort.
Thus, they made their move – when Sukhbir Badal announced the resignation of his wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal from Modi’s cabinet.
All was going well for the Badals on Delhi borders and in Punjab. They would have enjoyed the rise and rise of Navjot ‘nuisance’ fondly until it pushed Captain Amrinder Singh out who has always had a good rapport with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The meetings Captain Amrinder has had with Modi’s people, the launch of Punjab Lok Congress party by Captain Amrinder Singh and now the repeal announcement of the farm laws by Narendra Modi completes the circle of Punjab politics.
Clearly, the repeal of farm laws announcement is in no way a ‘backdown’ in any political context. Rather it is the beginning of the end of Congress rule in Punjab, perhaps for a long time.
A lot needs to fall in place – the BJP and Captain alliance, the Navjot ‘Nuisance’ to continue to rock the boat for CM Channi, the continued failure Akali Dal and evaporation of AAP’s election promises – the biggest hoax freebies which make politics a business of political harlots.