The much-awaited presence of Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh in the Vidhan Sabha on Monday was used to the hilt by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to take potshots at his political foe, which left the former CM visibly bruised and the SAD-BJP camp in an upbeat mood.
Apt at turning a disadvantage into an advantage, the CM, instead of getting trapped in the carefully woven web of CLP leader Sunil Jakhar on the dismal power scenario in the state, launched a counter-offensive which not only silenced the Opposition but also left them a bit flummoxed during zero hour.
Before dwelling at length on the steps the government has been taking to ensure better power supply, Badal took the wind out of the Opposition attack by directing his tirade against Amarinder. It was after a long time that the two leaders were sitting across at a close distance. It was also for the first time in the ongoing budget session that both Amarinder and his bête noire Rajinder Kaur Bhattal were present in the assembly.
"You are welcome…I am thankful to you for coming to the assembly…I had been keenly looking forward to see you," Badal said, referring to Amarinder. "After all, I have become chief minister again because of your (Capt's) benevolence and the blessings of the Almighty. I am very happy to see you Capt Amarinderji… I will place your photo in my drawing room."
Badal's attack was sharp, but the tone was soft, giving little chance to the Opposition to disrupt him. The CM did not let this opportunity go waste and silenced the Opposition with his witty remarks. As the Congress accused the government of making misleading promises of turning Punjab into a power-surplus state, Badal hit back, saying: "It is because of your (Congress) as well as raja sahib's benevolence that I have a helicopter too. I will take all of you to see the power plants…You see for yourself as to what we have done."
Badal said he was making this offer in view of the uncertainty whether Amarinder will attend Tuesday's assembly proceedings. "Who knows whether Capt will come tomorrow…" he quipped.
Though Amarinder let Badal steal the show, he launched a ferocious attack against the government after SAD MLA SS Thandal referred to media reports about alleged tampering of power meter in Amarinder's New Moti Bagh Palace in Patiala.
While the Congress chief accused Badal of "stooping so low to humiliate him", the CM stoutly denied having any hand in sending the team to inspect electricity connections/meters of New Moti Bagh Palace. Amarinder said he had specific information that this was done at Badal's behest to belittle him. "Badal will soon be exposed once the entire truth is out," he remarked.
But Badal said he always held Capt Amarinder in highest esteem and could never think of indulging in such acts. "I have the highest regard for Amarinderji, I cannot even think of taking such steps," Badal said to assuage the ruffled feathers of the Congress leader.
The Congress leader said a transformer was installed in New Moti Bagh Palace with an electricity meter. Besides, he said, there were two parts within the palace-one for the palace and another for the servant quarters. He said all the bills were duly and regularly paid.
Amarinder said he was waiting for the detailed report from PSPCL officials and only then would he explain his position and expose the intentions behind these inspections. He said only his mother stays there, while he and most of his family stay away for most of the time.