Monday, September 3, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Panthic Morcha divided over unity offer
Tribune News Service and PTI

Akali Dal and Congress rallies
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, Union Minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, former Delhi Chief Minister Sahib Singh and SGPC chief J.S. Talwandi at an Akali Dal rally at Chhapar on Sunday. (Right) PCC chief Amarinder Singh and senior PCC leader Jagmeet Brar at a Congress rally. — Photos by Inderjeet Verma

Chhapar (Ludhiana), September 2
The newly floated Panthic Morcha, a conglomeration of splinter Akali Dal groups, today seemed divided on Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s offer for unity.

The key morcha leader and a G.S. Tohra-loyalist Prem Singh Chandumajra rejected the offer outright, saying that Mr Badal’s SAD “is not the original Akali political force.”

“The Badal group is not a parent Akali party and has no credential as an original Akali entity,” the SHSAD general secretary (Chandumajra) said minutes after Mr Badal made the offer here.

However, president of the Akali Dal (Mann) Simranjit Singh Mann did not reject the offer, saying that his party, also a constituent of the Panthic Morcha, “will look into it”.

“I have to check the bonafide of Mr Badal’s statement. Let us first find out in which context and spirit he made the offer,” he said.

Earlier, talking to reporters here, Mr Badal extended unconditional offer of rapprochement to the Panthic Morcha and cautioned its leaders that they were playing into the hands of the Congress which was ultimately going to harm Panthic interests.

For the first time the Chief Minister, sounded reconciliatory note towards the Panthic Morcha by reminding its leaders that they were inadvertently serving the cause of the Congress. He made it clear that he was ready for unconditional rapprochement with the morcha.

Mr Badal pointed out that both Panthic Morcha and the SAD had a common enemy in the Congress. “By opposing the SAD they are indirectly supporting the Congress, he said. He went to the extent of alleging that “Panthic Morcha is providing firing cover to the Congress in its attack on us.”

Contesting the charges of morcha leaders that he had harmed the interests of the Panth, he pointed out that it was Mr Tohra who headed the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC) for 25 years. So these charges should be levelled against him. Moreover, he claimed that the SAD was the parent Akali Dal which genuinely represented the interests of the Panth.

The convener of the Panthic Morcha Baba Sarabjot Singh Bedi, however, retorted back that the morcha would safeguard the interests of the Panth on its own. He stuck to the morcha stand that Mr Badal should present himself before Akal Takht as he had flouted Panthic principles. He said unless Mr Badal repented for the wrongs he had done, no rapprochement could be thought about.

On the claims of Mr Badal that Mr Tohra had headed the SGPC for 25 years and if anything had gone wrong it should be attributed to him, Baba Bedi said it was only after Mr Tohra was replaced that a duly installed head of Akal Takht, Bhai Ranjit Singh, was removed unconstitutionally. He said Mr Badal was answerable to the Panth for various omissions and commissions.

He denied the charges of Mr Badal that they were serving the interests of the Congress. “It will be decided by people who will serve the Panthic interests sincerely”.

Meanwhile, all major political parties held parallel conferences to level accusations against one an- other.

While the SAD lambasted the Congress for its alleged long misrule, the Congress and Panthic Morcha levelled counter-allegations against the state government.

Mr Badal said the Congress “discriminated” Punjab on all fronts and adopted a policy of “suppression of Punjabis”.

Mr Tohra did not attend the conference as he was abroad.

Mr Chandumajra, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann and Mr Ravi Inder Singh castigated Mr Badal for the alleged denigration of Akal Takht.

Mr Badal, meanwhile, said the prestigious Bathinda refinery project would not be stalled by the Centre.

“There is no problem with the refinery coming to Punjab. In fact, work on the project is continuing in full swing,” he said.

Mr Badal said there might be some problems with new projects but the old ones had been cleared by the Central Cabinet and the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.

The Shahpur Kandi hydel project which was needed to ensure that the Ranjit Sagar project on the Ravi generated power throughout the year, had also been cleared by the Centre.

He refuted allegations that he had asked for a berth in the Central Cabinet for his son but had been turned down by the Prime Minister.

“The SAD’s relationship with the BJP is different. We do not seek any berths from the BJP,” he said.Back

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