Admitting that Ferozepur saffron leader Jaspal Singh "Jimmy Sandhu", who is booked in a graft case related to helping a drug accused, was once his personal assistant, a beleaguered Kamal Sharma on Saturday refused to step down as Punjab BJP president, though he softened his stance against Akali minister Bikram Singh Majithia on the drug issue.
"Yes, he (Jimmy) was my PA… many months ago…," Sharma, under fire from his political adversaries both within and outside the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said at a press conference here. "How can I be held responsible for the involvement of our office-bearers in such cases," he asked reporters, and scoffed at the growing demand for his resignation. After Majithia's name had cropped up in a money-laundering case related to a drug scandal, Sharma had sought his resignation, saying: "Drug trade cannot flourish in Punjab without political protection."
Reminded of that and union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal's recent statement suggesting that the state BJP chief should quit, Sharma said: "I have nothing personal against Majithia. I had sought his resignation on the grounds that since (Sarwan Singh) Phillaur had been made to quit on drug issue, so should he."
When the BJP raised drug issue, it should not be seen as anti-Akali, said Sharma, on the back foot after a case of graft and forgery was registered in Ferozepur against his two key aides and the demand for his resignation is growing. "No one is indispensable," said Sharma, "or anybody above the law. After learning from the police about the activities of our office-bearers, I had forced them to resign."
'Drugs in Punjab big issue for party'
On Saturday, BJP national general secretary P Murlidhar Rao said that the drug menace in Punjab was a major issue of concern for the party. He was here to open a two-day camp for the BJP trainers who will, later, guide the party workers in the state.
At a press conference, Rao said the BJP leadership had no second thoughts over the seriousness of the drugs menace in Punjab. Responding to a question about the alleged involvement of BJP workers in the Ferozepur drug case, Rao said the party would help the state government investigate every angle of the case. "We are least tolerant about such issues. We have nothing to hide and we want both the money-laundering case and the drug case registered in Ferozepur to be probed," said Rao.
He said the BJP was "very serious" about expanding its base in Punjab and becoming a party representing all sections and regions of the state.