Punjab Congress spokesman Sukhpal Khaira on Thursday ridiculed chief minister Parkash Singh Badal's claim of spending 17 years in jail for the sake of people of Punjab and their rights, challenging Badal to prove this assertion.
"Akali leaders like Gurcharan Singh Tohra and Simranjit Singh Mann had spent much more time in prison than Badal, who actually did not spend more than four years if we recount history," Khaira said at a press conference here.
"I ask Badal to prove the total period of 17 years in jail as claimed by him. Most of his jail term, which does not cross four years in all, was in comfort zones when leaders like Tohra, Mann and my father (Sukhjinder Singh) were kept in isolated cells for months together," Khaira said.
He said he had sought details about the total number of days Badal had spent in jail on different occasions under the RTI Act, but the state home department had replied that there was no such record available.
Khaira said Badal's comparison with Nelson Mandela, by his deputy chief minister son Sukhbir Badal in 2009, was "absolute nonsense".
"Mandela, who spent 27 years in jail in his fight against apartheid and for the freedom of his countrymen, never earned seven-star hotels like Badal. And Mandela never appointed any of his kin as successor, either in the party or as the South African President," Khaira said.
"The assertion of spending 17 years in jail was for self-glorification and for getting titles like 'Fakr-e-Quam'," he added.
The Punjab Congress spokesman said it was not only Badal but also other Akali leaders, like Balwant Singh, who had supported Operation Bluestar.
Khaira produced a letter from slain Akali minister Balwant Singh, dated June 9, 1984, addressed to Indira Gandhi, in which he justified the army action, and further wrote that he would refrain from active politics of the Akali Dal.
Pointing out that Balwant Singh was later killed by militants, Khaira said that Badal's arrest and being kept "in comfort" at Panchmari after June 10, 1984 was rather a blessing for him to escape any untoward situation of giving explanations to the people of Punjab after Operation Bluestar.
Dithering on party stand
When asked why the Congress leaders in Punjab were blaming Badal for Operation Bluestar instead of conveying the party's firm standing on the military action to flush out the militants, Khaira said, "I am a small leader and my personal opinion is that the army action could have been avoided, but I am not saying it as a Congress spokesperson."