As part of doing away with VIP culture, the Congress manifesto and then the cabinet had announced to shun red beacons and chopper rides for ministers at the expense of taxpayers’ money.
While Punjab ministers and MLAs are coming to terms with life without beacons, the rule of not using state helicopter is being tweaked by ministers by taking refuge to “emergency situation” clause in the poll manifesto.
First, it was Punjab finance minister Manpreet Badal — the main architect of the “no-VIP culture” policy — who flew to Talwandi Sabo in a chopper to address the Baisakhi rally in April.
And then, in May first week, minister of state Razia Sultana flew to Amritsar to attend “urgent” meetings. The chopper-ride was even flaunted on Facebook by the ‘Malerkotla Congress’ through pictured posted on May 3 and 4. Razia, who holds the independent charge of public works department (PWD) along with social security and development of women and children, is an MLA from the Malerkotla assembly seat.
The pictures are captioned: “PWD minister Razia Sultana during an air journey in a helicopter provided by the CM for her day-long tour of Amritsar and Tarn Taran. Her son Aqil and political adviser Khurshid Jung accompanied her in the helicopter.”
One of the pictures also shows CM Captain Amarinder Singh’s political secretary Major Amardeep seated with Razia’s son. The five-seater chopper is learnt to have flown another “high-profile” passenger, who is not visible in the pictures.
‘An official trip’
Razia, when asked about the chopper ride, said: “I was allotted the helicopter by the CM as I had very important meetings to attend at Amritsar and Tarn Taran. It was totally an official trip.” She did not answer why her son was accompanying her on an official trip and what were the “emergency” meetings about.
In one of the pictures taken later on the same day, Razia is seen with her son and few others at the Golden Temple. Pictures of the mother-son in chopper have got 175 views from followers.
When contacted, Major Amardeep said he took the chopper to attend a friend’s birthday at a village in Amritsar. “Since it was flying to Amritsar, I went and came back with the minister,” he said.
Having scored a victory in Punjab elections by hijacking the “aam aadmi” theme of Arvind Kejriwal’s party, the Congress government is finding it difficult to walk the talk. It was the brazen display of “VIP culture” by the Akalis that made ground for a third alternative like the AAP in Punjab. Two months in power, the Congress seems to be losing sight of this reality.