Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in Nakodar on Friday slammed newly-appointed state Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh for alleging that the incidents of sacrilege in the state were the handiwork of the ruling Badals, even as he termed Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Punjab convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur and radical leader Simranjit Singh Mann as Amarinder’s close aides.
Addressing the Shiromani Akali Dal’s show of strength at the Sadbhawna rally in Nakodar, the CM accused the Congress of creating a divide between Hindu and Sikh communities and supporting pro-Khalistan organisers of the radicals’ Sarbat Khalsa.
“Amarinder alleged that the Akalis are behind the incidents of sacrilege so as to divert the attention of the public. I request the state Congress chief to think before making such statements. Be wise at least in giving statements,” the CM said.
Launching a personal attack on Amarinder, Badal recalled that when the former was the chief minister, a special bar was set up in the CM’s official residence in Chandigarh.
“When I moved into that house, I removed the bar. Instead, I installed Guru Granth Sahib. At my village (Badal), too, we have the same arrangement. In contrast, everyone knows what happens in the Patiala palace (Amarinder’s residence),” the CM said, asking the gathering how his government could ever commit the sin of sacrilege.
Badal also cautioned people to be wary of certain forces. “The first (force) is the Congress. The second, Simranjit Singh Mann, the brain behind the gathering (‘Sarbat Khalsa’), who is also Amarinder’s brother-in-law. Both are hand in glove. If they fail to communicate directly, they do it through their wives,” the CM said.
Targeting the AAP for allegedly supporting the ‘Sarbat Khalsa’, Badal said: “There is a third one (force) that should also be kept at bay. He is Sucha Singh Chhotepur. He is also a disciple of Amarinder.”
Terming Amarinder as a bull who roars but later runs out of steam, Badal said it was not the first time that Amarinder had been made the state Congress chief.
“We have defeated him twice (in the assembly elections). Five years ago, too, he was telling people that the Congress government was set to be formed in Punjab. Amarinder is full of pride. Those who are proud, God never blesses them with power,” said Badal, while reciting an Urdu verse, “Ye baazu mere aazmaye huye hain” (I have tested the strength of these arms).
He also mocked the sequence of events that led to Amarinder’s elevation as the state Congress chief. “It has happened for the first time that a person who openly criticised the party and Rahul Gandhi has become the state unit chief. If the Congress had even an iota of self-esteem, it would not have given Amarinder the post,” said Badal.
The CM ridiculed Amarinder’s statement about the possibility of a grand alliance against the Akali-BJP combine. “It means the Congress itself is not sure of contesting alone,” he quipped.
‘Congress has aligned with separatist forces: Sukhbir
Addressing the gathering earlier, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal said the Congress had aligned with separatist forces for the sake of vote-bank politics. He recalled that the rift between Congress leaders Giani Zail Singh and Darbara Singh had destroyed the peaceful atmosphere of Punjab, taking the state back by many years, and now the same was being repeated by the Bajwa-Captain rivalry.
On Amarinder’s statement that Congress leaders attended the November 10 ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ as Sikhs, Sukhbir said the party was now remembering Sikhism and its ideals, but where was this ideology when it attacked Harmandar Sahib and indulged in ethnic cleansing of Sikhs in 1984.
Sukhbir alleged that the opposition Congress and Pakistan’s spy agency Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) were behind the forces which had created disturbance in the state through recent incidents of sacrilege.
In his address, state BJP chief Kamal Sharma exhorted NRIs (non-resident Indians) not to support anti-national elements. “NRIs must take feedback from their relatives living in India. It’s high time the NRIs, who are our brothers and sisters, take precautions,” Sharma said.
Justifying his tirade against Capt Amarinder Singh, Parkash Singh Badal said in his address that he didn’t believe in backbiting, but after listening to Sukhbir, “I also got excited and decided to attack the PPCC chief.”
Sukhbir announced that an express highway between Amritsar and Delhi was on the anvil, and once it materialised, the time to travel between the two cities would come down to just three hours. The deputy CM also declared that in a year, road infrastructure in Punjab would become world-class. “It would give our state a look like that of Canada and US,” he said.
Throughout the rally, Sukhbir kept giving directions to his men, including OSD (officer on special duty) Charanjit Brar, about managing the crowd for the TV cameras. The central portion of the 15-acre pandal was packed with people to capture the rush, even though space was available on both sides. A drone camera was used to click panoramic pictures of the crowd. Akali MLA Bibi Jagir Kaur claimed that the rally witnessed a gathering of about 1 lakh people.
BJP MLA and former minister Manoranjan Kalia said Congressmen were fighting like dogs. He quipped that the Captain visited Punjab only when his Pakistani friend Aroosa Alam asked to do so.
SDM serves tea to CM
Local government officials were busy taking care of VVIPs. Subdivisional magistrate (SDM) Kulwant Singh himself served tea to the chief minister. When contacted, the 2012-batch IAS officer said, “I only served tea to the CM. I didn’t make it for him.” Meanwhile, government schools in Nakodar subdivision were closed due to the rally.