Blood is not always thicker than water. At least in the house of the Badals. As finance minister in the Congress government, Manpreet Badal, estranged nephew of former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, did some straight talk on the legacy inherited by his government from the last one.
After the zero hour ended, Manpreet was asked by speaker Rana KP Singh to present the supplementary demands for the current fiscal (ending on March 31). Leader of opposition HS Phoolka intervened, saying the papers have been kept on their chairs just a while ago and they have had no time to study them. AAP chief whip Sukhpal Khaira too got up and said while they welcomed chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh's statement of “no political vendetta”, a commission of inquiry under a sitting high court judge should be set up to investigate "10-year loot" by former CM Badal and his family.
At this point, Amarinder said a white paper on the previous government's legacy will be brought in the budget session. Then after, Manpreet, while presenting the supplementary demands pointed out ₹25,100-crore “deviation” in the budget estimates and the actual expenditure of the previous government. “There can be ₹1,000-crore or ₹2,000-crore deviation in budget estimates and actual expenses. How could budget estimates go wrong by ₹25,000 crore,” he said.
He then went on to quote a couplet of his favourite Urdu poet Allama Iqbal: “Dekhte hi dekhte sara kafila loot ta gaya, hai, saad afsos, ehsas-e-ziya jaata raha (The state has been looted. Alas! its people do not even know they have been looted).” He added the last government left every Punjabi “a legacy of debt”.
Badals the target, the main opposition Aam Aadmi Party too chorused support for Manpreet. Phoolka added his own couplet in Punjabi: “Kafila lootya gaya, kithe lootya paisa baar na chala jaaye (the state has been looted, what if the money goes out of the state).” “The white paper should be brought as soon as possible," he said.
Former finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa got up to intervene and former SAD minister Bikram Singh Majithia argued that he be allowed to speak, but cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu took upon himself to silence them. “Tu na idhaar udhar ki baat kar, bata karava kyu loota (don't divert from the topic, first tell who looted the caravan).” Sidhu left the House in splits and Amarinder amused.
Dhindsa again got up and said: "No illegality was committed and there was no bungling of funds.” Sidhu, this time, fired another adage: "Ulta chor kotwal ko datte (the thief is taking on the cop).” Manpreet then punctured Dhindsa's claim by citing an instance of “bungling” of funds. "The last government had sanctioned ₹6 crore for Hoshiarpur's development. The money was distributed between 300 contractors without any tenders and no work was undertaken.”
Amid the exchange, Lok Insaaf Party’s Bains brothers again spoke and the speaker reminded them nothing they say from the front benches will be recorded. The seating row — the AAP is demanding that the Bains brothers, their pre-poll allies, be seated next to them on the front row and the speaker has not agreed to it — continued till passing of the appropriation bills for the supplementary grants and later the vote on account of ₹29,389 crore for the next three months till the government brings its budget.