Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Partap Singh Bajwa on Sunday started a hunger strike here at Congress Bhawan to press for the demand for a CBI inquiry into the multi-crore drug racket and immediate dismissal and arrest of revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia.
Addressing party workers, Bajwa said the Congress would intensify the agitation if a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was not ordered. He added that the Congress was using peaceful and democratic methods to shake the conscience of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who was shielding Majithia due to close family relations.
Bajwa added that Jagdish Bhola, main accused in the drug racket, had accused Majithia of being the mastermind. He said the police earlier had arrested Maninder Singh Bittu Aulakh and Jagjit Singh Chahal, who were known as close confidants of Majithia. The police claim to have arrested about 50 persons on the basis of confessions made by Bhola, so there should be no separate yardstick for Majithia, he added.
He alleged that Majithia was involved in the drug, liquor mafia and sand mining mafia with the blessings of the Badal family.
Terming Majithia a threat to democracy and peace of Punjab, he warned the CM that soon the former would also be a challenge to the political legacy of the Badal family.
The PPCC president said instead of seeking an apology from the people of Punjab and taking action against key operators of the drug trade, Badal had been using the government machinery and the legal system to protect Majithia.
Bajwa said the chain hunger strike started by the Congress would continue till the drug racket was exposed and culprits brought to book. In the meantime, the party would announce a new programme of agitation, he added.
He stated that every day, party leaders, including MLAs and DCC presidents from two assembly constituencies, would sit on a hunger strike.
In the evening, a candlelight march was held in the Sector 17 plaza at Chandigarh. A number of senior leaders were present on the occasion.
Former CM Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, PPCC vice-presidents Lal Singh and Kewal Singh Dhillon, MLAs Tarlochan Singh Soond, Joginder Singh Punjgrain, Gurkirat Singh Kotli, Gurcharan Singh Boparai, Navtej Cheema, Randeep Singh Nabha, Sukhjinder Randhawa, Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu and Balbir Sidhu joined Bajwa.
Others who sat on the hunger strike along with Bajwa included AICC secretaries Ashwani Sekhri and Kuljit Singh Nagra, along with other leaders such as Surinderpal Singh Sibia, Sukhjinder Raj Singh Majithia and Dr Raj Kumar Chhabewal.
In-house stir an eyewash: SAD
Reacting to the "hunger protest" by the Congress, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Sunday said the Punjab Congress had fallen back on holding an in-house hunger strike after the people of the state rejected PPCC president Partap Singh Bajwa's decision to take the support of a dreaded druglord to attack the SAD-BJP government.
Terming the hunger strike a "photo opportunity" to keep himself in the news, SAD spokesman Dr Daljit Singh Cheema and general secretary Sharanjit Singh Dhillon said it was ironic that Bajwa, who had launched an agitation programme with much fanfare recently, had chosen a hunger strike in the comfort of the party office here in the union territory.
"Bajwa has seen the fate of the 'chakka jam' programme held recently which saw uninterrupted movement of traffic across the state," the SAD leaders said. They said this was the main reason why the PPCC chief had diluted his agitation programme and decided to released calibrated photographs for despatch to the party high command to show that an agitation was in progress, when nothing existed on the ground," said Dr Cheema and Dhillon.
The SAD reiterated its decision to take the case against the drug mafia in Punjab to its logical end. Dr Cheema exhorted the government to go after the collaborators of druglords also in order to rid the civil society of drugs.
'10am to 5pm'
The 'hunger strike' kicked off by PPCC chief Partap Bajwa has been scheduled from 10am to 5pm, after which the party leaders would be continuing their protest in the form of a candlelight march every day from the Punjab Congress Bhawan to the Sector 17 Plaza every day, a party spokesman said here.