Discontent between alliance partners Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to the surface yet again as their district units traded severe allegations of corruption and sheltering “mafia”, in Amritsar on Thursday.
The SAD unit led by Upkar Singh Sandhu demanded that BJP minister Anil Joshi resign, and urged chief minister and SAD patron Parkash Singh Badal to initiate a vigilance probe into “assets acquired by Joshi and his relatives in the past seven years”.
The seven years refer to the period for which the alliance has been in power in Punjab continuously. Sandhu said Joshi had made the local bodies department “his private limited company”.
The BJP unit was prompt in reaction. It gave the clean chit to Joshi and, in turn, accused the SAD of “giving shelter to land mafia, sand mafia, wine mafia and cable mafia”.
District BJP Chief Naresh Sharma asked: “Will the district SAD chief show courage to get a CBI probe marked so that names of all those linked with the mafia are revealed?” He also put the SAD on a sticky wicket on drug abuse issue, saying: “Everybody knows from where drugs are flowing and who all are in the business. Will Sandhu get a CBI probe carried out into that too?”
Start and escalation
The tussle between the Akali Dal and BJP had started on the issue of a garbage dump in Bhagtanwala where residents have been staging protests against it.
Chief parliamentary secretary and local SAD MLA Inderbir Bolaria had targeted Joshi and Amritsar mayor Bakshi Ram Arora, saying that the two had left people with no choice but to live in pathetic conditions.
Joshi reacted by saying that Bolaria must get his facts right “and if he is so worried he must take up the matter with the CM and deputy CM”. At this, Bolaria reacted that Joshi must not run away from responsibility. But the issue took a backseat on Thursday as the matter reached larger issues and allegations.
Joshi in firing line
On Thursday morning, the SAD councillors led by district chief Sandhu leveled charges against Joshi. Sandhu even alleged, “The minister is just busy giving a facelift to Amritsar-north constituency that he represents. His (Joshi’s) son drives the vehicle of Amritsar improvement trust, which pays installments for it.” The SAD unit named councillor Aman Aeri as one of Joshi’s relatives favoured in allotment of works.
Sandhu added, “We are not violating the coalition dharma. We just want a probe against the minister. If BJP wants to break the coalition, then even we don’t want it!”
Terming the allegations as baseless, the district BJP chief said, “It is the Akali Dal which is giving shelter to land, sand, cable and wine mafia in Punjab. He then made counter-allegations about the drug menace.
Sharma also asked the Akali Dal to clear its position on its MLA and CPS Avinash Chander who was recently questioned by the Enforcement Directorate. “There are ministers whose PAs had a scooter few years back and now they are on SUVs.”