Sunday, August 19, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Sikhs asked to boycott Badal
Varinder walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 18
After paying obeisance at the Golden Temple and Akal Takht, leaders of the newly formed Panthic Morcha today gave a call to the Sikh ‘sangat’ in India and abroad to boycott Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, till he tendered an unconditional apology for uttering derogatory remarks against its convener, Baba Sarbjot Singh Bedi, a descendant of the first Sikh master, Guru Nanak Dev.

The nomenclature of the Panthic Morcha has been changed to Shiromani Akali Dal (Panthic Morcha).

Baba Bedi announced that by next Baisakhi (April 13, 2002), a united Shiromani Akali Dal under one president, one constitution and one flag would come into being. He said it was the beginning of unity process and complete Panthic unity would be forged as per the aspirations of the Sikh ‘sangat’.

A number of SGPC members, former ministers, MLAs and senior leaders of the Akali Dal accompanied the Panthic Morcha leaders to the sanctum sanctorum and Akal Takht.

Interestingly, a large number of police officials in mufti and the task force of the SGPC were deployed inside the Golden Temple and Akal Takht. They feared that Bhai Ranjit Singh might enter Akal Takht.

Almost all officials of the SGPC, instead of attending office, were on guard in the Golden Temple since 7 a.m. though the leaders of the Panthic Morcha were scheduled to arrive at 11 a.m.

The announcement by Baba Bedi about a unified Akali Dal under one president and one constitution by April next is a broader hint that the breakaway Akali factions which constitute the Panthic Morcha may not dissolve their respective factions before the forthcoming Assembly elections. Interestingly, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, President Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal, evaded direct questions as to how long they would keep united however, Mr Ravi Inder Singh, an Akali MLA, told this correspondent that he would not let leaders of any Akali faction to run away. He hoped that all Akali factions would unitedly ensure the defeat of the Badal government.

It may be mentioned here that similar Panthic unity was forged on May 1, 1994, at the behest of the then acting Jathedar, Akal Takht, Prof Manjit Singh. However, most leaders, including Mr Tohra had then joined hands with Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

Baba Bedi said, Bhai Ranjit Singh was still jathedar of Akal Takht. The SAD (Panthic Morcha) would endeavour to re-install him (Bhai Ranjit Singh) as jathedar in the coming days.

The Panthic Morcha leaders sought immediate amendment in the Criminal Procedure Code to award exemplary punishment to persons indulging in sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib. Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President, SAD (Amritsar), said the Supreme Court had ruled that Guru Granth Sahib was a “jurisdiction person”. Hence, those insulting the holy granth should be booked under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code instead of Section 295.

The Panthic Morcha leaders said they had decided to move court against Mr K.P.S. Gill, a former Director-General of Police, and other senior police officials responsible for elimination of Sikh youths. They alleged that Mr Badal had been shielding corrupt officials.

The Panthic leaders said a major workers’ and district jathedars’ meeting would be held at Ludhiana on August 25. The party would also organise political conferences at Mela Chhapar, Guru ki Dhab and near Kotkapura.

To a question, Baba Sarbjot Singh Bedi said the Panthic Morcha would reach an alliance with like-minded parties to defeat the Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance in the forthcoming elections. He said Mr Ravi Inder Singh had recently met Mr Kanshi Ram, BSP supremo, and talks may be finalised shortly.

Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra said Mr Badal was doling out public money for unproductive things. “Where was Mr Badal during the past four-and-half-years. Why could he not think of development of the state and upliftment of the people?”

In yet another significant statement, Baba Bedi said the Panthic Morcha would welcome any Akali leader who wished to leave the ruling Akali Dal for the sake of the Panth.


Natwar hopeful of Cong landslide win in Punjab
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 18
“There is a visible change in the mood of the people as they have started realising that it is only the Congress which can give them good governance. We had a good success in the last Assembly elections and at present 11 states have Congress governments. But all this does not make us complacent. We are working hard.

“Our position is very good in both Punjab and Uttaranchal and we will give a big surprise in Uttar Pradesh also. In Punjab, it will be a united Congress getting a landslide verdict,” says Mr Natwar Singh, a former External Affairs Minister and a member of the Congress Working Committee.

Mr Natwar Singh was here in connection with a seminar at Panjab University. He called on Mr Hari Jaisingh, Editor, The Tribune, before returning to the union capital in the evening.

Talking to The Tribune, Mr Natwar Singh said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had been a big disappointment. Talking about the post Agra-summit scenario, he said : “sooner the present government goes, the better. I wish Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee a long life but the shortest tenure as Prime Minister,” he said maintaining that even in the post NDA-exit political scenario, he would not think that Mr Vajpayee had any chance to be PM again.

The present NDA government, he said, was trying to convert India from a multicultural nation to a “unique culture” country.

“The economy of the country has slowed down. The industrial growth has come down to 1 per cent. The exports have come down. There have been numerous scams. The UTI scam alone has hit as many as two crore middle class families.

“Though the Union Finance Minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha, is a friend, but he must go. He is at a wrong place,” says Mr Singh claiming that Mr Rajiv Gandhi was crucified in the Bofors case. “We lost the 1989 elections because of the Bofors bogey. But till date, there has been no proof. And see what is happening everyday now. There is no governance now.”

“It is why there is a change in the mood of the people. We have to build on that. Our President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, had a good tour of the USA recently where she addressed a UN session,” Mr Natwar Singh said.

Advocating induction of youngsters into politics, he says that the Congress hopes to give chance to a lot of new faces in the coming elections. “We have to throw up new leadership. We already have many young chief ministers, including those of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.”

“The Agra summit was a big diplomatic failure. There were no preparations. Why did we agree for the summit if there were no official level meetings. The power equations have changed since 1998 when both Pakistan and India became nuclear powers. In conventional military balance sheet, we were far ahead of Pakistan, but after becoming nuclear, the equation has changed and has brought Pakistan on a par with us. It is why General Musharraf could talk about only one point agenda. No previous Pakistan’s head of state could ever talk about single point agenda,” he said maintaining that India’s relations with its neighbouring countries were not that good.

“The only redeeming feature has been improvement in our relations with the USA. We welcome this. The Indian community, especially of cybergenics in the USA, has a big role in this. The credit for this must go to Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, the man who introduced IITs in the country. And if India has emerged as an IT power, the credit must go to Rajiv Gandhi, who in 1985, initiated it. The BJP has no such contribution,” Mr Natwar Singh added.

Coming back to the national scene, he said that the situation was disturbing both in Kashmir and North East. “The Prime Minister must have a fullfledged Cabinet minister for the North East.”

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