The Congress is in no mood to return any favours, at least not when the elections are barely three months away. When the Captain Amarinder Singh-led Congress government had brought the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004, over the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal, the Shiromani Akali Dal had no choice but to support it as elections were years away.
But 12 years down, as Punjab Congress chief, Amarinder is not willing to let the water war he waged for Punjab go down the drain.
The party pre-empted the move of the Parkash Singh Badal government of calling a special session of the Punjab assembly and asking the opposition to unite in the “interest of Punjab”, through en masse resignation of all its 42 MLAs on the day the adverse Supreme Court ruling came.
As the battle of one-upmanship moves to Delhi — both parties will separately meet President Pranab Mukherjee and have asked their MPs to raise the issue in the Parliament — Amarinder has turned down Badal’s appeal to the Congress MLAs to attend the session. Instead, he intends to steal Badal’s thunder by embarking on roadshows from next week.
Starting November 21, the Congress campaign will move into poll gear as Amarinder holds roadshows across Punjab, adding SYL to the list of “woes inherited” from the 10-year-long Badal legacy.
Talking to HT on Tuesday, Amarinder said Congress MLAs have already resigned in protest against Badal’s “failure” to protect Punjab’s water rights.
“Badal could not defend the case for 10 years and failed to give true picture of Punjab’s depleted water resources to the Supreme Court. In the budget session, he passed the bill to denotify land acquired for the SYL but failed to secure the governor’s assent. We do not want to be a part of this farce,” he said.
He said their party has sought legal opinion and Punjab can bring in a legislation to remove the very foundation of the verdict after the Congress government is at the helm.
One up on AAP too
The Congress is also cashing in on the issue to project itself as a “bigger well-wisher” of Punjab than not just ruling Akali Dal but also the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Hardly a day has passed since the SC ruling when Amarinder has not questioned the silence of AAP chief and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal on the issue.
It is another matter that even Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had chosen to steer cĺear of answering the media queries on SYL during his Punjab visit in April after the state assembly had annulled the land notification for SYL as the Congress is rooting for SYL in Haryana. Like Rahul, Kejriwal cannot overlook Delhi’s concerns but a poll-bound state gets the right to be the first among equals and Amarinder knows that.
In the first week, roadshows will be held at 15 cities and towns in the first leg, starting from Ropar, Nawanshahar and Jalandhar
The other towns and cities to be covered include Khanna, Fatehgarh Sahib, Ludhiana city, Mansa, Sangrur, Bhadaur, Kapurthala, Tarn Taran, Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Pathankot
After roadshow at Hoshiarpur on November 28, the next leg will start next month