Flanked by three Ludhiana MLAs, Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa on Friday accused party secretary Parminder Mehta from Ludhiana of "inciting" communal tension in the state.
Addressing the media at the Congress Bhawan here, Bajwa said Mehta had been suspended from the party on Thursday evening as his "inflammatory" posts on social media had hurt the sentiments of Sikhs throughout the world.
"The Congress has no place for such people. There seems to be a design of some agency behind the statements of Mehta. He has spoken without provocation and the social media is on fire against him. I want to assure Sikhs throughout the world that our party is secular to the core and respects all religions," Bajwa said. He was accompanied by Ludhiana MLAs Bharat Bhushan Ashu, Rakesh Pandey and Surinder Dawar.
Soon after the press conference, Mehta hit back at Bajwa for "targeting him" for supporting Bajwa's bete noire, deputy leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha, Capt Amarinder Singh. "Our families had been affected by terrorism in Punjab. When posters of slain Sikh radical leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale came up in Ludhiana, we removed them and then Bajwa patted us for doing so. My family and I visit the gurdwara daily. How can I or my nephew write derogatory words about the Sikh gurus? I have lodged a complaint with police and administration that our Facebook and Whatsapp accounts have been hacked. They are probing the matter. I am a former councillor of Ludhiana and my wife is a sitting councillor. Our association with the Congress is 30 years old. We are being targeted by Congressmen opposed to former Ludhiana MP Manish Tewari," Mehta told HT.
Bajwa had earlier suspended Tewari loyalist, Ludhiana District Committee president Pawan Dewan. Ludhiana is a major support base for Bajwa with three sitting MLAs and Ludhiana MP Ravneet Bittu showing solidarity with him. Ludhiana MLA Ashu and former MP Manish Tewari do not see eye to eye. Tewari has openly been supporting Amarinder against Bajwa.
On the posters of Bhindrawale surfacing in some parts of Ludhiana, Bajwa said the Congress stand on the issue remained unchanged that peace should be maintained in Punjab under all circumstances.
'Have requested Rahul to join padyatra on Day 1'
Asked about his statement on Thursday that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi would join his padyatra from October 2, Bajwa said he had requested Rahul to join it from day one. On getting the green signal from Rahul for his 10-month-long campaign, Bajwa said which party did not want its state president to hit the road and meet people. "He totally supported my campaign," Bajwa claimed.
'Badal should give land to IIM at Pathankot'
Accusing chief minister Parkash Singh Badal of deliberately offering sites that would be disapproved by the Centre for setting up premier institutes in Punjab, Partap Bajwa demanded that the proposed Indian Institute of Management (IIM) should come up at Pathankot where nearly 400 acres of government land is lying vacant. "The modus operandi of Badal is to suggest sites which the Centre would not approve. Then he offers one in his own area. This is what he did when the central university was proposed, that is why the development in Punjab is lopsided," Bajwa said.
Posers for Modi during Punjab visit
Bajwa is also ready with three posers for Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is slated to visit Anandpur Sahib on June 19. "When Modi came to Moga during the Lok Sabha elections, he had said that the land of Punjabi farmers in Gujarat would not be taken away. Why has the Gujarat government not withdrawn the special leave petition filed in the Supreme Court? Second, Punjab farmers are worried if their paddy will be lifted by the Centre. Will Modi assure them that it would be lifted? Third, what does he intend to give to Punjab farmers?" Bajwa wondered.
Showing the BJP's official magazine, 'Kamal Suneha', he said an article in it said no one's life or property is safe in Punjab. "The BJP is an ally of the ruling SAD. The magazine has Modi's picture on the back page. Yet Badal goes to Delhi inviting Modi with folded hands," Bajwa added.