Punjab govt’s all-party meet on stir gives rivals ammo to settle scores

While AAP, which is the main opposition party in the state, stages a walk-out, the BJP boycotts the meet altogether, reports Rajesh Moudgil

The all-party meet convened recently by Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh on the issue of farmers’ protest and to seek withdrawal of contentious farm laws, has provided fresh ammunition to the rival parties to settle scores over each other.

While the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is the main opposition party in the state, staged a walk-out, the BJP boycotted the meet altogether.

Already in the election year, Punjab has a House of 117, with ruling Congress’ 77 MLAs, the main opposition party AAP, 20, SAD, 15 members and BJP, three, while the Lok Insaaf Party (LIP), got two seats.

The meeting, which was attended by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), condemned what it termed as a “sponsored violence in Delhi’’ on Republic Day and sought a judicial probe into the “laxity of those responsible for law and order at Red Fort’’. The meeting also demanded withdrawal of cases and relief of those jailed and further decided to send an all-party delegation to meet Prime Minsiter Narendra Modi to raise the said issues.

Elaborating on the said meeting, an official statement said that while the meeting was boycotted by the BJP, the AAP walked out over their demand for deployment of Punjab police to protect the farmers protesting at the Delhi borders, which the chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh rejected as unconstitutional.

“We talk about more federal powers for the states, then how can we do this?” asked Captain Amarinder as AAP leaders brought up the issue towards the end of the meeting. “What will you do if Himachal Pradesh and Haryana police come to Punjab,” asked Captain Amarinder adding that “Your (AAP) chief minister in Delhi can request the Union Home Minister to provide security there …we can’t do it as it’s not possible constitutionally,”, the official communication added.

Capt Amarinder Singh also said his government would bring the state amendment Bills to negate the draconian farm laws again in the Vidhan Sabha since the governor had failed to send the earlier Bills to the President. The chief minister further told the all-party meeting that he would seek time again from the President. He said he was also constantly in touch with the Union Home Minister on the issue of the farm laws and the farmer protests, as suggested by the Prime Minister.

 “We have to work to resolve this issue before things go out of hand,” he said, adding that he knew how many drones, arms and ammunition were being smuggled into the state from across the border. Recalling how, soon after prolonged two-month negotiations on an earlier Punjab crisis, relating to a list of some 42 demands, Operation Bluestar happened, the chief minister warned that “If anger builds here, it will be exploited.”

Of the persons from Punjab reported missing since the Republic Day violence in the national capital, 70 are in Delhi jails, while 14 of the remaining 19 missing had been located, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh disclosed on Tuesday. The chief minister, who had on Monday announced helpline number 112 for citizens to make complaints in this regard, said that as per information received, five persons from Punjab were still missing.

Capt Amarinder Singh also said that a 70-member lawyers’ team of state advocate general Atul Nanda, deputed to help out farmers with free legal aid, were reaching out to those in prison and those facing cases filed against them by the Delhi police. He held that his government was extending all possible help to the agitating farmers, camping out at Delhi’s borders for over two months now, and also to their families back home. The chief minister also held that 170 cases registered against farmers during agitations in Punjab were being withdrawn by his government.


Expressing solidarity with farmers, the AAP chief media coordinator Digvijay Dhanju, however, termed the said meeting as just an eyewash. “The Congress had done it in the past too and done nothing concrete as follow up to that. Now again, the so-called all-party meeting is also just a ploy of the Congress to buy time as it has not been concerned about the farmers’ interests. There was no agenda for the meeting nor was there any future plan to follow up the issue’’, he said.

The BJP state chief spokesperson Anil Sarin termed the said meeting as a political gimmick and asked that one was surprised what for had the meeting called for?. “While on one hand the same laws — contract farming, amended mandi Act, private markets laws, e-trading — are effective in Punjab, the Congress government in the state of raising an uproar for the repeal of the same farm laws, the Central government had brought for the benefit of farmers’’, Sarin said.

“The people of the state know that the Congress has been playing with the sentiments of farmers and misleading them on the farm laws. By calling such meetings, the Congress leaders are trying to play to the gallery while the people understand that it all is a political gimmick, hence the boycott by the BJP’’, he held.


The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders, however, say that it is their duty to support farmers and would join any initiative for that purpose. The SAD leader Daljit Singh Cheema says that since the all party meeting was convened for the repeal of the contentious farm laws, SAD attended it, though it was quite late to hold such a meeting. “We had also attended a similar meeting held in June, when it was decided to meet prime minister in the context, though the government failed to get any time from the prime minister then’’, he added.

Political analysts including Dr Pramod Kumar, director, institute for development and communication (IDC), Chandigarh, however, see hardly any role of the state government in the context. “At a time, when the political leaders are being kept on the margins as neither the farmers nor the Centre are seeking their participation, they have no role in this context’’, he says adding that though such meetings could be a goodwill gesture, but were insignificant.