Opposites attract, but in Punjab’s case, it is opposition parties that seem to be scripting the laws of attraction. What former prime minister Manmohan Singh was to Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, finance minister Arun Jaitley seems to be for the opposition Congress, now that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is at the helm of affairs at the Centre.
Jaitley’s advise to the Badal regime to walk the path of fiscal prudence, in reply to a letter seeking a bailout, has given the Congress ammunition to take a dig at the reversal in fortunes of Badal. Reminding the CM of his bonhomie with the former PM, leader of the Opposition in the Punjab assembly Sunil Jakhar said on Tuesday that Badal used to often taunt the Congress on the floor of the House that he does not need any Congress leader to go with him to meet Manmohan Singh.
“The CM used to say Manmohan ji meri gaal nai morde (Manmohan does not turn down my requests). So he used to meet the PM alone with a bouquet of flowers to make demands. But things have changed now. I think the CM needs us now to go with him to meet Jaitley and PM Narendra Modi. And we would do so in the interest of Punjab,” Jakhar said.
Deputy leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Capt Amarinder Singh also took a dig at Badal for “always accusing the Congress government at the Centre of discriminating against Punjab”.
“Badal must be realising in hindsight that Manmohan Singh was always a better Prime Minister for Punjab than Modi, who would never let Badal return empty-handed and always put something into his begging bowl, while Modi and his finance minister (Jaitley) are too blunt and cold to him,” Amarinder said in a statement.
Mincing no words, Jakhar said Jaitley would still be feeling hurt at how Badals misled him to contest from Amritsar. “But Jaitley is a seasoned and mature politician. He would be guided by facts and figures while deciding the bailout package and not by his personal bitterness at the political outfit that let him down. We are willing to go with the Badals to seek a bailout but they should present their case with true facts and figures as Badal himself had thanked former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the floor of the assembly for waiving militancy-related debt of the state.”
Notably, the tough posturing of the state BJP against ally Shiromani Akali Dal is also seen as a fallout of Jaitley’s defeat from Amritsar.