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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

Punjab assembly: Badals’ bad blood overshadows budget as Manpreet goes ballistic

As the Badal father-son duo was not present in the House, Manpreet dared former minister Bikram Singh Majithia and other Akali MLAs to stay in the House and hear his speech.

punjab Updated: Mar 28, 2018 22:59 IST
Navneet Sharma
Navneet Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Punjab finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal replying to the debate on the budget in the state assembly in Chandigarh on Wednesday.
Punjab finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal replying to the debate on the budget in the state assembly in Chandigarh on Wednesday.(Keshav Singh/HT)

The fight between two estranged cousins, finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal, has turned downright dirty.

A day after Sukhbir raised questions over his competence and joked about his love for poetry instead, Manpreet hit back on Wednesday with piercing personal attacks on paternal uncle Parkash Singh Badal, his family and the Majithias who are related to them through marriage. He accused the SAD’s Badals of duplicity, of misusing government funds and of compromising the interests of the state.

Replying to the debate on the budget in the assembly, Manpreet, usually known to be calm and gracious in his demeanour, went after the family from the word go. His opening remark — a dare to former minister Bikram Singh Majithia and other Akali MLAs to stay in the House and hear his speech — was expunged by the speaker. The Badal father-son duo was not present in the House.

As SAD members went to the well, holding placards against ‘Jojo’ (Jaijeet Singh, Manpreet’s brother-in-law), he launched the charge, saying they are looking for an excuse to leave the House. “Majithia is talking about ‘Jojo tax’. But let me say what he (Majithia) is. Say, when the poorest of the poor farmers marries off his daughter, he sells his land if he has to gift a car or scooter to her. But, when his (Majithia’s) sister (Harsimrat Kaur Badal, now Union minister) got married into our family (to Sukhbir), the car they gave was on instalments. Now, those who got the car on instalments are travelling in vehicles worth Rs 1 crore each!”

His next swipe was directly at his uncle’s family. “The poorest of the poor serve langar and prasad at their mother’s bhog (prayer meeting). I will always feel sad that at my tayi ji’s (Surinder Kaur Badal, wife of Parkash Singh Badal) prayer meeting, these were organised by the SGPC (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee). Also, they are the richest family, but expenses for her cancer treatment were borne by the government,” he claimed. In his speech, the minister did not directly name Sukhbir, but referred to him as Jalalabad MLA.

Manpreet also alleged that when the state elections (last year) were over and the results were awaited, (the then CM) “Badal saab went to the US for a heart check-up on government expense”.

“A seven-star hotel was constructed over 18 kila (acres) in Gurgaon. They should tell why Devi Lal gave the land to them? There was an SYL deal,” he alleged.

Taking another shot, the FM said those who “sold Punjab” and used government vehicles and fuel were pointing fingers at him. “They say Manpreet does not know how to handle finance portfolio. Yes, I don’t know how to operate buses, sell chitta (heroin), set up five-star hotels or loot the state exchequer,” he added.

As Manpreet continued attacking the Badals, giving primacy to the family feud over the state budget, there was no intervention from anyone on the treasury benches. Amid sloganeering by SAD members, speaker Rana KP Singh adjourned the House for 20 minutes. The moment he made the announcement, an elated local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu — who is seen as the aggressive one among Congress’ newer rung of leaders, and has been having a running battle with the Badals and Majithia for years — got up and hugged him.

When the proceedings resumed, SAD members were gone and the minister began from where he had left, before finally turning to the state finances. “A day before the election results came out on March 11, cash credit limit (CCL) gap of Rs 31,000 crore was converted into term loan by the (SAD-BJP) government,” he said, calling it an irresponsible act. Manpreet said (the then finance minister Parminder Singh) Dhindsa was not happy with that move, but was told to agree to it. On being asked by leader of opposition Sukhpal Khaira whether the state government will initiate any action for its recovery, he said: “We are trying to put things back on track. Then, we will take whatever action is required.”

Denying the opposition members’ charge of fudging budget figures, the FM said the government will achieve its targets. “Revenue receipts are estimated to go up by 30% this year. Our non-tax revenue estimate is up because we have included income from PIDB (Punjab Infrastructure Development Board) that was outside the budget earlier. Also, the government will bring fiscal deficit and revenue deficit within the prescribed limit within two years,” he said before winding up his speech.

First Published: Mar 28, 2018 22:59 IST

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