Capt Amarinder not in command of Punjab government, says Sukhbir Badal

Breaks his silence: SAD president says Fastway not his company and govt will only hit small bus operators by cancelling permits; claims Sidhu, Manpreet competing for headlines

punjab Updated: Jul 18, 2017 08:48 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan TImes, Chandigarh
Sukhbir claimed Navjot Singh Sidhu has stopped all development work. (HT File )

Both the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had made business interests of the ruling Badal family their main poll plank. After taking power, chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has taken the “no-political vendetta” line, leaving ministers and MLAs with the feeling that the government is not doing enough to bring down the business empire of the Badals.

Amid all this, there have been reports of local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s tirade against cable transmission company, Fastway, and the government’s move to cancel bus permits under the new transport policy.

Responding to this, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Monday broke his silence, saying the CM was “not in command” of the government.

He also claimed that Sidhu and finance minister Manpreet Badal were competing to “make headlines”.

“Sidhu and Manpreet are in a succession battle to dethrone Amarinder. I don’t see this government lasting for five years. Sidhu thinks Fastway is owned by me. We have no links with Fastway. I am 100% shareholder of PTC (group of channels). From buses to hotels, every business is in my name and various agencies have scrutinised it,” he said, while speaking to HT on the sidelines of the voting for the Presidential elections.

He added, “The government wants to cancel all bus permits given since 2011. I only have a fleet of 150 buses. Others are small bus operators, owning two to three buses. They will hit livelihoods of small operators to hit Sukhbir. All my bus permits are legal and I am not bothered if they cancel them. I own PTC, but our government did not pay a single penny for running government ads,” Sukhbir added.

At the last cabinet meeting, many ministers wanted action against Badal buses and Sidhu had raked up Fastway’s alleged tax evasion.

‘Sidhu has stopped development’

Sukhbir claimed Sidhu has stopped all development work. “He stopped the water bus on the Harike Lake. The company that has the contract for upkeep of Amritsar heritage street has not been paid for three months. Sidhu has also stopped the Amritsar BRTS system. Every development work that we sanctioned has been stalled. State Congress chief Sunil Jakhar stopped all development work in Abohar after losing the polls. They are being vindictive against people of Punjab, not Sukhbir,” he claimed.

The choicest of Sukhbir’s barbs were reserved for estranged cousin Manpreet Badal.

“My brother thinks he can cut costs by cutting down on tea and samosas. He had fought with my father (former CM Parkash Singh Badal) to be the finance minister. He speaks of diversion of Central funds. Ask him, how much money he diverted to his former assembly seat Gidderbaha, when he was finance minister in our government.”

‘Ministers speak in different voices’

On why his attacks were more targeted at Sidhu and Manpreet and not the CM, Sukhbir denied there was a “tacit understanding” between him and Amarinder to not go after each other.

“The CM has no command on the government. All his ministers are speaking in different voices. Amarinder is issuing statements without knowing the facts, be it farm loan waiver or growth in state’s revenue. As the CM, you are supposed to give responsible statements. Proposals are approved in cabinet meetings and not implemented — be it the hike in pensions or writing off loans,” he claimed.

‘Farm loan waiver will be the nemesis of Cong’

Justifying his party’s move to corner the government on farm debt waiver and not on sand mining auctions during the budget session, Sukhbir added the farm loan waiver would prove to be the “nemesis” of the Congress.

“The CM announced the loan waiver during the budget session in June. His finance minister (Manpreet) says he has yet to get details from the expert group. Does the government think farmers commit suicides due to crop loans? Only those with good track record of paying crop loans get new crop loans. The government has made defaulters out of good, paying farmers and have crippled the state’s agricultural credit system,” Sukhbir added.

First Published: Jul 18, 2017 08:47 IST