As Punjab minister for rural development and panchayats Sikandar Singh Maluka dithered in answering the questions raised by non-resident Punjabis on his arrival in Washington on Sunday, former Indian hockey captain and SAD MLA from Jalandhar Cantonment Pargat Singh tackled these with caution.
They addressed two different meetings of party workers in Washington the same day, and were cautious in answering the queries.
The ongoing image-building exercise of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in the US, Canada and European countries which has entered the last leg has generated much heat in foreign countries. Many of the Sikh and Punjabi community living here ask why they are here, whereas the Akalis tell them to play a proactive role in building Punjab instead of being overly critical.
"We can't compare Punjab with Canada and the US, but are trying to perform beyond our means," Maluka told the gathering in a cautious tone in the evening.
Earlier during a meeting in the morning, Pargat Singh, speaking to a group of non-resident Punjabis, said society had turned corrupt and is much commercialised. "Choose your representatives with wisdom. In 67 years since independence different people have played different roles and the result is in front of us," he said.
The two spoke at different times, at different locations but seem to be talking in unison. Maluka said things could have been set right immediately after Partition but it had not happened.
Similarly, Pargat Singh said the system in India could not be matched with foreign countries. Speaking more like a sportsman and less as a politician, Pargat said he used to play a fair game as a full back and is replicating it in politics and didn't bother what others were doing. He was talking at the residence of NRI Harbans Singh Sandhu while Maluka came on the invitation of Jasdip Singh Chandok.
Maluka's address seemed a typical poll speech in the hinterland of Punjab, whereas Pargat tried to project himself better than the present class of politicians, especially when he was asked why he entered politics having played international hockey.
Maluka is reportedly moving to Toronto in Canada and Pargat having finished his tour is returning to Punjab.
"There are no power cuts in Punjab. It's the first government which has fulfilled all promises made in the election manifesto. Roads are being widened, state government employees are getting more salaries than in other states," said Maluka without connecting to the audience as most of them wanted him to answer other queries which he was trying to avoid.
Answering tough ones
Pargat Singh, on drugs: "Drugs is a general issue, I am not denying it. Let us clean our backyards and the nation would automatically be cleaned."
Sikandar Singh Maluka, on sand mafia: "I am not saying sand mafia is not operating. The issue is serious. The permission to dig sand is not given in mines more than two acres in size."