A television exposé focussing on the chief minister has prompted a call of inquiry from the state's leader of opposition.
The electronic news channel report was about the misappropriation of Rs. 40 crore marked for the constituency of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (PUDA) had allocated the sum and Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB) had disbursed it.
"The channel has hinted at the CM's direct involvement in this distribution of money to influence voters," leader of opposition Sunil Jakhar stated on Friday in a press release issued here, adding that he demanded "time-bound inquiry by a sitting judge of the Punjab and Haryana high court".
"Badal owes the people a moral explanation," said Jakhar, "as the diversion of money happened in his own constituency and under his direct intervention in both Lambi and Gidderbaha."
PUDA, through the PIDB, had allocated Rs. 45 crore for housing for the poor. Of this, Rs. 40 crore was sent to the CM's home district of Muktsar between January 2011 and March 2012. Rs. 10 crore was sanctioned, allegedly in haste, to the deputy commissioner concerned under personal orders of the CM just before the enforcing of the model code of conduct for assembly elections.
"Sum varying from Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 35,000 was given to each beneficiary on pick-and-choose basis to influence them during the Vidhan Sabha voting," said Jakhar. "Neither the old houses were repaired nor new ones built. The money vanished into the hands of the political leadership and administration."
The allegation of the Punjab Congress that Akalis had used massive money power to influence voters in the 2012 state elections was now vindicated, said Jakhar, adding that the NDTV news exposed how the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) had robbed the public exchequer to purchase votes and fund the CM's election campaign.
The episode should be seen in conjunction with the earlier financial scandals involving cabinet ministers Gulzar Singh Ranike, Sucha Singh Langah and Tota Singh, said the leader of opposition. "Bending rules for personal benefit has been a rule instead of an exception for the Badal government, with the CM as its fountain head," he said. "The Congress accepted the electoral verdict with all humility but the repeat of the Akali government with Badal at the helm will keep many more scandals buried for some more time."
The Congress leaders' call for closer monitoring of the Central funds to the state had pinched the ruling alliance of the SAD and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) because it would plug their source of graft, said Jakhar, adding that the state Congress would raise the issue on the floor of the Vidhan Sabha and demand investigation.