Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Saturday brought the crucial Sikh issues and the agrarian crisis to the national centrestage, asking the Centre to end the "political, economic and religious discrimination" against the state, Sikh community and the farmers as a "matter of extreme national urgency".
Deviating from the prepared script, the chief minister minced no words in highlighting a series of policies and decisions of the successive Congress governments at the Centre, which had spelt "despair and acute sense of grievance" in the Sikh community.
He referred to the "sustained, vulgar and utterly non-acceptable interference in the religious affairs of Sikhs" in trying to either disband or dilute the SGPC or to capture it through unethical back-door entry, saying the community had high hopes from the present government, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to restore the dignity and pride of the Khalsa Panth by ending injustice or discrimination.
The chief minister was at his characteristic candid best and termed his observations as "kadwi par sachhi baat" (bitter truth) saying he had come here to share the "Mann Ki Baat" of the masses as he was sure that the present government at the Centre, especially the Prime Minister, were sensitive to the sentiments of people.
In his address on the meeting of the 27th Northern Zonal Council held at Vigyan Bhawan here, the chief minister, while dwelling on the issue of prevalent agrarian crisis, said more than 60% population depended on agriculture but the farming sector was passing through a tough time.
Recalling the stellar role of Punjabis in the national freedom struggle, the chief minister said more than 80% people who were martyred or exiled belonged to Punjab. However, he bemoaned that Punjabis had suffered the most before and after Independence.
Badal demanded that the Punjabi-speaking areas kept out of the state be merged with it and Chandigarh be restored to the state as its capital. He said Punjab's exclusive right on its river waters must be protected.
The chief minister also impressed upon the Centre to implement the agreed 60:40 ratio of employees in the Chandigarh Administration from Punjab and Haryana. Badal demanded a similar package of industrial concessions for Punjab as already granted to Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.