People’s Party of Punjab chief Manpreet Singh Badal on Monday questioned the intentions of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal behind raising the demand for recasting of the constitution in favour of a real federal structure at the meeting of the chief ministers convened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss restructuring of the Planning Commission, saying the timing smacked of political opportunism.
“Rather than sincerity to the cause which the Akali Dal has been espousing depending upon the situation, the CM has the history of backtracking from this demand from time to time. Now the issue has been raised at the time when the relations between the Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party are passing through a tense phase with the future of the alliance being shrouded in uncertainty. The timing also coincides with the shift in the Akali Dal once again towards the Panthic agenda to mobilise the Sikh support base of the party which has got eroded over the years”, he said.
Manpreet recalled that Parkash Singh Badal had convened a meeting of the non-Congress chief ministers on this very issue in 1979 after the Akali Dal had formed the government in alliance with the then Janata Party in 1977. West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu had welcomed the initiative. However, for the reasons best known to him, he backtracked at the last moment and cancelled the meeting.
He said the best time to press for federalism was that of the mid-nineties when regional parties seemed to be dominating the scene at the Centre. However, that opportunity was lost as Badal was not sincere to the demand and moreover, the party had made a conscious shift towards the agenda of Punjabiat at that time in which such issues like federalism had no place. The Akali Dal could have very well put up the condition of restructuring of the constitution when Badal extended unconditional support to Atal Behari Vajpayee for the BJP led government.
He pointed that that there was a qualitative change in the situation in the country after the BJP having come into power at its own at the Centre under the command of Narendra Modi. The national agenda would not be influenced by the regional parties now which had little role to play but dictated by the BJP. Of course, the BJP too was for more powers to the states which were needed to facilitate higher development. However, the demand raised by Badal was outside those parameters of more powers.
He said the issue Badal had raised on Sunday was just sugar-coated version of the Anandpur Sahib resolution.