Thursday, May 31, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

CM allots RS seat to BJP
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, May 30
Bowing to pressure by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Punjab Chief Minister and President of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today announced that the SAD had decided to allot the Rajya Sabha seat to the BJP.

In charge of Punjab BJP affairs and former Rajya Sabha member O.P. Kohli, hailing the decision, said a special meeting of senior state party leaders would be held at Chandigarh tomorrow to select a candidate. The last date for filing of nominations is June 1.

Mr Badal, talking to mediapersons at the local Circuit House this morning, announced that in view of the present political scenario in the state, he had decided to give the Rajya Sabha seat to the BJP.

Denying reports that there was immense political pressure from the BJP high command and its state leadership on him to allot the seat to their party, Mr Badal quipped: “The alliance between the Akali Dal and the BJP is based on the concept of Punjabiat. Moreover, both parties have very cordial relations which will be maintained at every cost. There is no pressure on me”.

The Political Affairs Committee (PAC) of the SAD, which held a meeting yesterday at Chandigarh, had left the decision on the issue to Mr Badal. The Rajya Sabha seat fell vacant following the election of Mr Rajmohinder Singh Majitha to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha from the Majitha Assembly constituency in February this year.

The Punjab Chief Minister said he would meet Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Home Minister L.K. Advani at Delhi on Friday and ask them to include the issue pertaining to free passage to devotees to the Sikh gurdwara in Kartarpur (Pakistan), 5 km from the Dera Baba Nanak border, on the agenda of the proposed talks with the Chief Executive of Pakistan, Gen Pervez Musharraf, during his forthcoming visit to India.

General Musharraf has already declared in the recent past that the Pakistan Government will allow a free passage to devotees to the gurdwara if his Indian counterparts so desire.

Asked about the failure of the SAD government to persuade the BJP-led Central Government to settle the long-pending demands of the state, including transfer of Chandigarh and Punjabi-speaking areas of Punjab and the water dispute with Haryana, Mr Badal alleged that the then Darbara Singh government in the state had withdrawn the case pertaining to water sharing from the Supreme Court on the directions of the then Prime Minister.

“These disputes are virtually a result of the anti-Punjab policies adopted by every Congress-led Central Governments. These long-pending disputes cannot be solved in a day,” he said.

Interestingly, he gave a clean chit to two of his Cabinet colleagues, Mr Sujan Singh and Mr Sohan Singh Thandal, who had reportedly been involved in illegal immigration of four persons to Canada.


Badal may face SAD wrath
T. R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 30
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal might find himself in deep waters for agreeing to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s request of backing a BJP nominee for the lone Rajya Sabha seat from the state, election for which is fixed for June 11.

With the Political Affairs Committee of the Shiromani Akali Dal leaving the decision about the Rajya Sabha seat to Mr Badal, the Chief Minister is bound to face the wrath of several claimants in his party for bowing to pressure from BJP allies.

Mr Badal has already started ground work for preparation to Assembly elections in Punjab scheduled in the first quarter of next year. It is, therefore, not surprising that the Chief Minister agreed to Mr Vajpayee’s suggestion in the hope of gaining advantage during the do or die Assembly polls barely nine months away, it is learnt.

The strategy of the Punjab BJP unit has paid dividends in wresting the Rajya Sabha seat from the SAD, fallen vacant with the resignation of Mr Raj Mahinder Singh Majitha in March this year after he contested and won a byelection to the state Assembly.

A high-powered Punjab BJP delegation led by its president Brij Lal Rinwa and some BJP ministerialists visited Manali where the Prime Minister was holidaying. They impressed upon Mr Vajpayee to intervene and prevail upon Mr Badal to accommodate the BJP for the Rajya Sabha seat from Punjab.

Authoritative sources here said Mr Vajpayee promptly spoke to Mr Badal over the telephone from Manali and clinched the issue for the BJP.

The last date for filing nominations to fill five vacancies in the Rajya Sabha —two from Assam and one each from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh — is June 1.

There is growing resentment in the SAD that the BJP has been the least cooperative in providing them adequate support in the Hindi heartland especially Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi. Therefore, Mr Badal might well be caught in the eye of storm even though the SAD still holds the whip hand in terms of representation in the Rajya Sabha.

Mr Badal clearly has his eyes set on the larger electoral battle to the state Assembly. There is no doubt that for the present the SAD chief has to undertake a delicate balancing act in keeping his flock together.

The Chief Minister is credited with the view that the SAD will not lose much by sacrificing one Rajya Sabha seat for an ally in the vanguard of the power game in New Delhi.

It is Mr Badal’s calculation that in the run up to the assembly elections next year he could get upper hand in terms of seats and capitalise on Mr Vajpayee campaigning extensively for the SAD BJP alliance in Punjab.

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