The Punjab government’s decision to set up All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Bathinda as against its earlier proposal to start the premier health institute in Kapurthala is likely to result in a face-off between the Shiromani Akali Dal and its alliance partner BJP, with leaders of the saffron party from Doaba urging chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to rethink the move.
Union minister of state for social justice and empowerment Vijay Sampla, in whose constituency (Ramidi village of Kapurthala in the Hoshiarpur parliamentary seat) the project was earlier announced, has urged the CM to intervene and end the controversy.
“It is the chief minister who has to take the final call over selection of site for any project sanctioned by the Centre. As a Union minister, I do not have any right to intervene in this. But as an elected representative, I have expressed my desire to set up AIIMS in my constituency,” said Sampla, while talking to HT from Delhi.
This comes after CM’s daughter-in-law and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal played a key role in taking AIIMS to her home constituency.
In a statement issued in Jalandhar, Sampla said he would again urge Badal to have a sympathetic view on this in his next meeting with the chief minister.
Former minister and Jalandhar Central MLA Manoranjan Kalia, who was the first BJP leader to oppose the decision to shift the upcoming institute from Kapurthala, said, “I am not saying that AIIMS should come up in Jalandhar or Kapurthala. We do not have problem if it comes in Bathinda as such. But the government should take all pros and cons in mind and then finalise the site which is easily approachable for all people from across the state,” said Kalia.
“Doaba is in the centre of Punjab. People coming from Majha and Malwa would have an easy access to AIIMS if it comes up here. We urge the chief minister to take the final decision after listening to all views on this. We are not against Bathinda but the wisdom should prevail,” said BJP legislative leader in Vidhan Sabha and forest minister Chunni Lal Bhagat.
It has been learnt that senior BJP leaders from the district are likely to hold a meeting on Friday in Jalandhar to chalk out the party’s strategy over the issue.
SAD defensive on issue
Bholath MLA Bibi Jagir Kaur, in whose constituency the institution was proposed earlier, said the chief minister has taken a decision to announce the project for Bathinda as it needs better healthcare because of high prevalence of cancer in the border belt.
“The CM knows better than anybody else. AIIMS was not sanctioned for Ramidi (Kapurthala) and it was only one of the sites selected for it. I don’t know why people are politicising the issue?” she questioned.
Congress adopts aggressive posture
To oppose the decision, Congress workers held a dharna outside the deputy commissioner’s office in Jalandhar. “It is a matter of great shame that the Badal family is misusing the mandate of the people to take away all major projects to Muktsar and Bathinda. There is not a single government hospital providing quality healthcare here that can cater to the needs of the poor in Doaba and Majha,” said party spokesperson Sukhpal Khaira.
Former Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Mohinder Singh Kay Pee, former minister Joginder Maan and district Congress committee (urban) president Rajinder Beri also attended the dharna. Khaira said he is planning to file a public interest litigation (PIL) in court against the decision.