Congress vs Akalis at Kartarpur event as row breaks out over plaque
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu pressed a button to lay the digital foundation stone of the project on the Indian side that will link Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur with the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan.
Political barbs flew between the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) at the foundation stone-laying ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor project on Monday while Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh issued a warning to Pakistan’s army chief Qamar Bajwa.
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu pressed a button to lay the digital foundation stone of the project on the Indian side that will link Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur with the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan. The physical foundation stone was removed after jails minister and local MLA Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa objected to the names of Akali leaders – former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal and Union minister Harsimrat Badal – on the plaque. Randhawa covered his and the CM’s names with a black tape to avoid sharing space with Akali leaders.
Amarinder took the opportunity to warn Bajwa not to vitiate peace in Punjab. “I would like to ask Pakistan army chief Qamar Bajwa something, as a soldier...”
“Which army teaches to violate ceasefire and kill jawans on the other side? Which army teaches to send people to attack Pathankot and Amritsar? This is cowardice. I am warning you (Bajwa), we are also Punjabis, you will not be allowed to enter here and vitiate the atmosphere,” he said at the event.
A controversy erupted over a hug Bajwa shared with Amarinder’s Cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu during the latter’s recent visit to Pakistan at its new Prime Minister Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony. Sidhu skipped Monday’s event. The minister, who was campaigning for the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, flew back and visited the ‘darshan sthal’ in Dera Baba Nanak for a glimpse of the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara in Narowal district of Pakistan through binoculars installed for the purpose.
Before the event began, a livid Randhawa lashed out at National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) officials, who had made arrangements for the ceremony, for carving the names of the three Badals on the foundation stone. He first threatened to boycott the event, alleging violation of protocol, and then taped over the names of Amarinder Singh, PWD minister Vijay Inder Singla and his own on the plaque.
“I cannot see my name and those of my ministerial colleagues along with the Badals. They (Badals) have no contribution in getting the corridor project cleared,” he said. Taken aback, NHAI officials replaced the foundation stone with a digital one that carried the names of Naidu, Punjab governor VP Singh Badnore, Amarinder and Union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari.
More sparks flew when Harsimrat Kaur, in her speech, took potshots at Congress leaders over the 1984 anti-Sikh massacre, triggering sloganeering.
Jakhar got even while proposing the vote of thanks, raising the issue of drug abuse in the state that was allegedly rampant during Akali-Bharatiya Janata Party rule. Harsimrat objected and had to be calmed down by her ministerial colleagues and Gadkari.