Shahkot bypoll: Congress sees Akali hand in posting of SHO
Left blushing after director general of police (DGP, HRD) Siddharth Chattopadhyaya levelled allegations against two others — state police chief Suresh Arora and DGP (intelligence) Dinkar Gupta — in the Punjab and Haryana high court forcing chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh to read the riot act to police officers on discipline, the Congress government is now facing a unsavoury controversy of a senior superintendent of police (SSP) versus the station house officer (SHO).
Jalandhar (rural) SSP Gurpreet Singh Bhullar has marked an inquiry against Mehatpur SHO Parminder Singh Bajwa for registering an FIR against Congress nominee for Shahkot bypoll, Hardev Singh Ladi Sherowalia, for illegal sand mining.
The SSP has questioned the “haste” in filing of the FIR by his subordinate and not keeping his seniors in the loop. The opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is gunning for the SSP alleging he is “blatantly shielding the Congress candidate”. The SAD has found a hero in the SHO, who it says “worked in interest of the common man, aggrieved due to high sand prices”.
Amid the raging controversy, the ruling Congress has found an “Akali hand in the political mischief”. Some senior party leaders alleged that Bhullar was a “blue-eyed boy” of the Akalis when in power.
“How can a SHO who was transferred out at the behest of Ladi after the bypoll was announced be back in Mehatpur police station of Shahkot? His name was recommended among panel of three names by SSP Bhullar to the election commission. It is no secret that Bhullar had a long stint as Mohali SSP due to his proximity to the Akalis,” a senior leader said.
The home department is under the CM and not just the party but also the government has been left embarrassed by “lack of control” over police officers. Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar, however, said Shahkot is not under Punjab Police but the EC now. “The EC had not asked to file the FIR but only to investigate the matter,” he said.
Resentful of Akalis “still calling the shots” in postings of civil and police officials, some Congress MLAs, along with Jakhar, wanted to meet the CM last month. Jakhar had even left the CM’s office in a huff after he failed to get an audience with him on the issue.
Choosing to bat for Ladi even as Akalis accused him of “doublespeak”, Jakhar said the party has found no substance in the allegations against him. “No one from the revenue or mining department or police visited the sites mentioned in the FIR to investigate if illegal mining had indeed taken place. Only after the returning officer had formed a panel of these departments and a probe had found Ladi guilty should the FIR be lodged. And the FIR was filed at 4am in the morning and soon uploaded on social media. It all smacks of a political conspiracy,” he added.
Some Congress leaders also feel that vested interests within the party have dented Ladi’s prospects. “Rana Gurjit Singh does not have many friends in the Congress. The opposition to Ladi’s name was unrelenting and continues even after his name was announced. Congress itself is enough to defeat Congress. It does not need enemies outside,” a party MLA said.
As allegations flew thick and fast, the SAD accused Jakhar of “working overtime to clear the name” of the party candidate.
SAD leader and MP Balwinder Singh Bhunder said in a statement: “On one hand Jakhar is saying that the FIR registered against Ladi is the result of political mischief and on the other, he claims that registration of the case is a proof that the Congress had not interfered in the matter at all. He must decide what he wants to say. Whether the case has been registered by the political opponents of the Congress or whether it has been registered on merit.”