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HindustanTimes Sun,31 Aug 2014

At beaches and casinos, finding cure for ailing Punjab

Pawan Sharma, Hindustan Times  Goa, April 08, 2013
First Published: 12:43 IST(8/4/2013) | Last Updated: 16:35 IST(8/4/2013)

Move over 'vichar manthan' (introspection), it's time for the SAD-BJP leaders to explore Goa's treasures - the tropical climes, the sandy beaches and, of course, the casinos.

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Immediately after moving into their twin "romantic and charming" luxury Taj hotels perched on the Aguada beach cliff in northern Goa for a two-day conclave formally beginning Monday, some Akali MLAs rushed to the casino nearby. Some 'jathedars', who apparently wanted more privacy than the five-stars offered, moved into an adjoining Marquis Beach Resort famous for its private beach.

Though the itinerary was guarded closely, some known fundraisers and hangers-on of Punjab deputy chief minister and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal had planned the Sunday dinner in a "good casino". Dera Bassi legislator NK Sharma and another Akali MLA were at the forefront, even scouting locations. Many were busy with their families brought along as part of the "soul-searching" exercise.

But such was the fear of media scrutiny that the SAD leadership pressured the Taj management to cancel confirmed bookings of mediapersons. Hotel officials said bookings for HT staff had specifically been cancelled.

ARRIVING IN STYLE

Punjab may be reeling under mounting debt, but chief minister and SAD patron Parkash Singh Badal, along with his son Sukhbir, arrived in style in a chartered plane. The other 120-odd delegates, including unsuccessful assembly poll candidates of SAD and the BJP, came in private airlines from Chandigarh and Delhi.

From the Goa airport to the venue, the road had huge hoardings welcoming the event being held "in the land of sun, sand and beaches".

It was murmured that the touring MLAs have spent the taxpayers' money to foot their travel bills, which further put a questions mark on the expensive excursion being just a party affair.

Though the mood was clearly of fun and frolic - of the discreet as well as the not-so-discreet varieties -- the official SAD line remained that the conclave would focus on "speeding up and perfecting delivery and performance levels".

AGENDA ON PAPER

The objective is to assess the implementation of various schemes launched by Sukhbir, who is seeking to pitch himself as the next CM, replacing his father. "The convention is being held ahead of the SAD-BJP government's plan to unfold a historic development thrust," a SAD spokesperson said.

CM Badal, meanwhile, told the delegates ahead of the Monday meeting: "No government policy can achieve 100% success without active involvement and support of the people, especially of the specific targeted beneficiaries of policies. We need to keep our ears close to the people's hearts and our fingers on their pulse."

At the camp, Badal and son would get specific feedback on performance of government wings. Also on the agenda is the deteriorating law and order in Punjab.


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