Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa on Tuesday called upon deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal, who also holds the home portfolio, to make his position clear on the charge of police patronage to illegal sand mining in the state, levelled by local bodies minister Anil Joshi.
"It is not the Opposition that is charging the police with providing patronage to illegal sand mining that has been going on in the state for the past several years. The prices of sand and gravel have multiplied a hundred times. Sand, which used to be almost freely available, is now being sold in the state at the rate of cement. The police department is with the deputy CM. Coming from the BJP, now he cannot take refuge under the argument of it being an allegation levelled by the Opposition. He owes an explanation to the people or should say that Joshi, his cabinet colleague, is lying," said Bajwa.
The state Congress chief said the menace of drug addiction and the skyrocketing sand and gravel prices had emerged as the two biggest issues during the election campaign in Punjab and both these illegal activities could not proliferate without political patronage.
Bajwa added that the police were the common thread in both cases. With Joshi coming out into the open to defend his party, the cat is now out of the bag, he said, adding that the BJP, stung by the humiliating defeat of party stalwart Arun Jaitley from Amritsar, mainly because of these two factors, had now hit back at the deputy CM.
BJP can't blame Akalis alone: Jakhar
Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Sunil Jakhar on Tuesday slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for blaming deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal for illegal mining across the state.
Jakhar, a Congress MLA, said the BJP could not run away from its responsibility by trying to disown the issue of illegal mining in the state and putting the entire blame on the Akalis.
He said if the situation was so grave, as per the recent statement of former industries minister Anil Joshi, then the saffron party should walk out of the coalition government immediately to protect its image in Punjab.
Jakhar said Sukhbir should also clear his stand on the allegations levelled by the BJP leader (Joshi) on the sand mafia or he should pull out of the coalition government with the BJP.
He said the BJP always tried to blame the Akalis on the issues of property tax and the sand mining mafia. He said BJP leaders changed their statements every day over these issues and also misguided the people of Punjab.
Jakhar appreciated the BJP leader's admission that the state government had been giving protection to the business of illegal mining.
He said illegal mining had been continuing for the past so many years under the protection of the Akali-
BJP government and no ruling party could run away from its responsibilities by blaming each other. He added that the state government should order an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to put the real culprits behind bars.