Terming it "ridiculous", Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa on Saturday dismissed deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal's claim of honest business dealings, saying that the income of the Badal family was multiplying at an exponential rate even as the economic crisis in Punjab was deepening.
Sukhbir had claimed in the June 7 interview, "I am like an open book... I don't have to commit fraud... There is nothing that I have haven't declared in my IT returns."
Bajwa countered this on Saturday: "While the fleet of the Badals' buses has expanded unlike the business of any other private company, the number of state-run buses has gone down in the same proportion."
The former MP cited information obtained by Dr Jasdeepak Singh, convener of the Right to Information (RTI) cell of state Congress, Punjab Roadway and Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC). "The number of state transport buses has come down to 451 in January 2014 from 866 in 2006-07 during the Akali Dal regime. Similar is the situation with PRTC. Both these organisations have been running in huge losses while the transport business of Badals flourished at their cost," Bajwa said.
Bajwa also wondered how the phenomenal growth of Sukhbir's assets always coincided with the period when his father Parkash Singh Badal is the chief minister. He also challenged the deputy CM on the issue of drug smuggling "under the patronage of the Akali leaders".
Meanwhile, another statement issued on behalf of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee condemned the alleged undue benefits given to transport companies of the ruling Badal family, and extended support to the agitation by Punjab Roadways employees in Jalandhar on this issue.
Party general secretary Rajanbir Singh aked, "Why does deputy CM Sukhbir Badal not apply his 'management techniques' to Punjab Roadways and PRTC which have turned sick over the years, whereas the Badals' transport fleet has been expanding unlike any other private transport company in the state?" He said luxury buses of the Badals' firms had now established "monopoly" over certain routes "by forcing out other companies". He cited the example of buses plying from different places to the Delhi international airport. "The Badals have taken over almost all lucrative routes in the state."
Drug racket: Names are already public, says Bajwa
On the drug menace, Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa attacked the SAD by citing its ongoing feud with ally BJP: "In case the BJP is making baseless allegations about political patronage to the multi-crore drug racket in the state, the two parties have no business to continue in alliance. The names have already been made public by smugglers like Jagdish Bhola and Raja Kandola."
In reference to deputy CM and SAD president Sukhbir Badal's interview to HT, Bajwa said it was "really strange" that the deputy CM had blamed media hype for the image of the state being a state of the drug addicts. He reminded him that "addicts met the chief minister at Talwandi Sabo during his latest sangat darshan programme, pleading with him to legalise the sale of narcotics".
Bajwa further remarked, "It is too well known to the BJP as to whom the deputy CM is trying to protect."