A local hotelier has accused former Patiala mayor Jaspal Pardhan of having accepted Rs 25 lakh in bribe for saving his hotel from demolition. Gurdeep Walia, along with his family, sat on a dharna outside Pardhan's house on Sunday, demanding the money back.
Following this, Pardhan's supporters allegedly beat up Walia and his brother Manjit Walia, who suffered injuries and were admitted to hospital. Pardhan, his son and Youth Akali Dal district unit president Preetinder Singh, suffered minor injuries in the clash.
Pardhan, who was recently exonerated by the police in a murder case of his alleged daughter-in-law, said, "It's yet another conspiracy by my opponents, as they know the party intends to give me a major responsibility in view of the recent clean chit I got."
However, hotelier's wife Ashwinder Kaur, along with her son, produced an audio tape before the SSP, in which she claimed to have a recording of the "conversation between Pardhan's wife and Walia" allegedly referring to the bribe.
Kaur said her husband had recorded the conversation when he went to the mayor's wife to demand the money after Pardhan had gone underground following the murder case. She told reporters, "The mayor had promised us to save our hotel from demolition, which he failed to do. When they refused to give back the money, we decided to hold a peaceful protest outside Pardhan's house."
In the afternoon, Walia, after giving a written complaint to the Tripuri police, along with his wife, aged parents and other relatives sat on dharna outside Pardhan's house at Phulkian Enclave.
Preetinder alleged that Walia, along with 40 supporters, entered their house and attacked the family, fired in the air and hurled abuses without any provocation. "They badly injured my cousin Ekjot Singh, my father and me. Following this, some of my supporters came to our rescue and attacked the mob," he said, claiming he had suffered a broken finger.
Walia, on his part, claimed, "If I had to attack them, I would not have brought my 80-year-old father and mother, wife and other women along. My family was sitting on a peaceful dharna, when Preetinder called us inside the house for parleys and attacked us."
Walia alleged the money had been paid through SDO Harkiran Singh, who was the middleman. However, the deal flopped when MC commissioner GS Sidhu refused to budge.
Sidhu, when contacted, said he was not aware of the clash. "I have come to know of an audio tape, in which the name of our SDO has figured. I will seek explanation from him."
SSP Gurpreet Singh Gill said the police had registered statements of both parties and had decided to lodge cross FIRs. The issue of money would be verified during the investigation, he added.
Defending himself, Pardhan said, "I don't even know Walia or his family. If the SDO has taken the money, he should reply to the queries. I haven't taken bribe in my entire career."