The Punjab Youth Congress (PYC) on Thursday drew flak for forcibly pasting pictures of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh alongside those of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on ambulances being run by the state health and family welfare department.
Congress general secretary and Punjab Congress affairs in-charge Gulchain Singh Charak told Hindustan Times that there was no nod given by the senior leadership to forcibly paste the PM's picture alongside Badal's on state-run ambulances.
"I am currently in Pune and do not know about the entire issue or the controversy. I will find out more details. I think Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCCC) president Capt Amarinder Singh should be the right person to be contacted on the issue."
State Congress spokesman Vimal Sumbly said though he personally did not approve of whatever was being done by the PYC, but he would want the PPCC president to be kept out of the controversy. "Moreover, I feel this looks like a motivated news story," the spokesman added.
Another state Congress spokesman, former MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira, said the entire issue should not have gone beyond a token protest against the Akali-BJP government for putting the CM's picture on the ambulances.
"At the same time, I feel that the Punjab government is too adamant in not allowing the PM's pictures to be pasted on the vehicles," Khaira added.
Meanwhile, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MLA and spokesman Dr Daljit Singh Cheema said the Congress' whole act smacked of nothing but sheer frustration after being humiliated in the assembly polls early this year.
"The Congress should know that health is a state subject and does not even figure on the concurrent list of the Constitution. If the Congress high command has given the green signal to do this vandalism in Punjab, it is direct interference in the functioning of the state government. The Congress was in power for five years (2002-07). Who stopped them from pasting Sonia Gandhi or Manmohan Singh's pictures across Punjab?" asked Dr Cheema.
He feared that the way Congress workers were intimidating ambulance drivers, it could cause a major accident. " If the Congress is so fond of pasting Manmohan Singh's picture along with that of the Punjab CM, we can provide them thousands of Badal's photos which they can hang in their drawing rooms," quipped Dr Cheema.
Chaudhary justifies 'campaign'
Punjab Youth Congress president Vikramjit Singh Chaudhary, who has been in the eye of a storm for spearheading the "campaign" to paste Manmohan Singh's photos on ambulances, denied that Congress workers were damaging or defacing public property. "We are not harassing the common man, sick or injured. We are doing it only on parked vehicles," said Chaudhary.
"After all, this is the PM's poor-oriented flagship programmes under which the Centre sends funds liberally to the state (Punjab)," he added.
When asked who had given them (Congressmen) the go-ahead for the "campaign", said there was no such instruction from the top, but he had already informed the national Youth Congress president about it.
Chaudhary expressed concern over the wrongful implication of YC leaders and activists, who have been booked in cases under the Punjab Prevention of Defacement of Property Act.
SAD 'advice' for Cong
Lashing out at the Punjab Youth Congress for pasting the Prime Minister's photos on '108' ambulances, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Thursday advised the Congress to first fight for ensuring at least 50% share in central taxes being collected from Punjab before rushing to take credit for every scheme. In a statement here, SAD joint secretary NK Sharma asked why the Congress was shying away from issues such as the "1984 massacre of Sikhs" and "digging of the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal".