Cracking the whip against Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) suspended him from the party for "anti-party activities" on Tuesday but left the question of his removal from the ministry to CM Parkash Singh Badal.
SAD president and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal acted swiftly on the recommendation of the party's disciplinary committee, which dramatically advanced its scheduled meeting by a day.
The meeting was advanced apparently to pre-empt a defiant Manpreet's plans to embarrass the party by holding a press conference on Wednesday.
Manpreet, currently in Delhi, had declared his intent to make public the official documents on the Centre's debt waiver offer to Punjab. Manpreet's suspension is the direct fallout of his October 5 interview to HT in which he had not only questioned Sukhbir's style of governance, but also made a strong pitch for accepting the Centre's offer to write off at least half of Punjab's R70,000-crore debt. His criticism of Sukhbir had raised the ruling SAD's hackles and also pitchforked him into a confrontation with the government and party which insisted that there was no official communication from the Union government on the subject.
Despite attempts Manpreet was not available for comment on his suspension. SAD secretary Daljit Singh Cheema said, "The party has decided to place Manpreet under suspension with immediate effect on the recommendation of the five-member disciplinary panel constituted on October 8."
In its two-page statement, the panel has slapped a show-cause notice on four-time Gidderbaha MLA and scion of the ruling Badal family for going to the press and directed him to appear before the panel on October 20 to explain his position. "In case Manpreet still issues a press statement, this would be considered gross violation of the party rules and regulations and the finance minister's disrespect for party discipline," it said.