Breaking his silence in the Sukhraj Singh murder case, food and civil supplies minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon on Saturday categorically denied the Congress allegations that he was trying to shield the five accused as they were Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) supporters.
"I am not shielding anyone, whether Akali or Congress. If someone has committed a crime, he or she must be arrested and punished," Kairon said while addressing the media at his residence in Kairon village.
Kairon, the son-in-law of the chief minister and representing the Patti assembly constituency since 1997, claimed that he had issued strict instructions to the police to arrest all the five accused. He maintained that he was never in the habit of defending or shielding criminals.
"My first concern is to ensure peace in my constituency and at the same time initiate developmental projects," he added.
Clarifying Congress charges that all the accused belonged to the SAD and were his supporters, the minister evaded a direct answer and said, "I have made it crystal clear that criminals will not be spared and neither will I ever support them. From what I have learnt is that personal enmity led to the murder. Whatever may be the case, it was an extremely sad incident and the accused will be brought to book."
Kairon broke his silence after his Congress rival Harminder Singh Gill, who had lost to him in the last two assembly elections, alleged that the accused had defected from the Congress to SAD in January last year during the election campaign.
The SAD leader said that he would visit the family of the murdered Youth Congress leader Sukhraj at his native village Bhagupur and ensure all possible help to them. Sukhraj, the Patti block president of the Youth Congress and party candidate for the block samiti elections, was shot dead on May 8 while coming out of the village gurdwara.
The police have so far arrested Harcharan Singh and his brother Sukhwinder Singh while their third brother Sarwan Singh along with Hardeep Singh and Randeep Singh are still absconding.
Ambika Soni visits bereaved family
Former union minister and senior Congress leader Ambika Soni visited the family of Sukhraj on Saturday to express the party leadership's solidarity with them and also to boost the morale of the party workers who are busy fighting the Akalis in the coming block samiti and zila parishad polls.
She was accompanied by PPCC vice-president OP Soni and former MLA Jasbir Singh Dimpa. Punjab Youth Congress president Vikramjit Singh Chaudhary briefed her about the killing. Soni, who was directed by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to visit Sukhraj's family, assured them of full support on behalf of the party and termed the killing "murder of democracy."
"It is very unfortunate incident. The law and order in Punjab has collapsed and the ruling SAD-BJP alliance, particularly the Badal family, is responsible for this," she said in an informal chat with the media.
The PYC along with local Congress leaders plans to stage a protest at the SSP office in Tarn Taran on May 13 against the failure of the police to arrest the remaining accused.