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HindustanTimes Mon,29 Dec 2014

SAD loses face as mayor faces murder charge

Ravinder Vasudeva, Hindustan Times  Patiala, February 25, 2013
First Published: 00:36 IST(25/2/2013) | Last Updated: 01:40 IST(25/2/2013)

After a case for allegedly murdering his "daughter-in-law" was registered against mayor Jaspal Pardhan, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has lended in an embarrassing spot, as it is already drawing flak for protecting 'criminals' after a spate of instances in which its leaders were found involved.

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Though after the registration of FIR, Pardhan has chosen to face arrest, this would not end his troubles for the possibility of losing the mayorship is looming large.

Sources in the SAD disclosed that the party was in no mood to bear the embarrassment.

"Registration of murder case against the mayor is signal enough that heads are sure to roll; the police must have taken this decision after a discussion with the high-ups and the party high command. Pradhan will probably be asked to step down within a day or two," said a general secretary of the party.

However, chief spokesperson of the party, Daljeet Singh Cheema, said the law would take its own course and the party president and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal would decided further action in the issue.

Meanwhile, immediately after the incident came to light, political opponents of the mayor became hyper active and started vindicating their point that Pardhan was the wrong choice for mayor. These leaders have already started eyeing the coveted post.

The five-month tenure of Pardhan as Patiala mayor has been a bumpy ride, made most uncomfortable by the councillors from the camp of former mayor Ajit Pal Singh Kohli and Kohli himself, who made the going tough for Pradhan in the house meetings.

Harpreet Singh, the 'son' of the mayor, who was also booked on murder charges, along with Pardhan, had also landed himself in a controversy two months ago, when he had gotten into an altercation with the security guard of a senior police functionary over parking his vehicle on the road. The matter, however, was settled amicably.

Pradhan's political opponents have also, time and again, questioned the interference of his another son Preetinder Singh, who happens to be the Youth Akali Dal president of the Patiala city unit, in official matters.

At the time of his elevation to the post of mayor Pardhan was considered to be the point man of the Surjit Singh Rakhra camp, but within two months, the political equations changed and he became an eyesore for the Rakhra group.

Sources said the Rakhra group had also become active for a change in guard after the registration of murder case.

The mayor is said to have been enjoying the patronage of education minister Sikander Singh Malooka, SAD incharge for the mayoral polls concluded last year, who had played a key role in Pradhan's elevation.

Perceiving it as the best time to corner the SAD ahead of the LoK Sabha polls next year, the local Congress has also chalked out a strategy.

"It is unfortunate that the mayor, who is considered the father of the city, has killed a daughter of the city. Now, Akalis will try to pressurise the police, but I hope the victim's family gets speedy justice," said Preneet Kaur.

Congress leader of opposition in the municipal corporation Sanjeev Bittu demanded the immediate resignation of the mayor. "Nothing is more serious than a murder charge. Though it is nothing new for the SAD, the party should ask Pardhan to step down on moral grounds," he said.

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