Tuesday, January 15, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Opposition agendaless: Badal
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, January 14
An overcast sky, strong winds and chilly weather notwithstanding, conferences and rallies here triggered a political heat wave.

This was perhaps the last common venue for political parties to demonstrate their strength ahead of the Assembly elections.

If the tone and the tenor at the SAD-BJP conference was soft with occasional attacks on opposition parties, the Congress, Panthic Morcha and Lok Bhalai Party leaders were sharp, focussed and pointed in attacking the ruling SAD-BJP alliance in general and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in particular.

While the SAD-BJP alliance highlighted on its achievements, holding the Opposition “agendaless”, the Opposition put it on the mat for rampant corruption, shattered economy, non-governance and “family” rule.

The SAD-BJP, if voted back to power, promised to restructure agro-economy by making agriculture remunerative, encouraging diversification, besides improving education and health care facilities.

Looking cheerful and relaxed, the Chief Minister said he was confident of improving the 1997 performance of the alliance in the elections. A similar view was expressed by the exuberant PPCC chief, Capt Amarinder Singh, in his pre-rally conference, claiming that the Congress was hoping to get two-third majority.

Claims and counter-claims apart, the turnout at the SAD-BJP and Congress conferences was impressive, though the latter was marred by some protests, including shouting of slogans over the selection of candidates, immediately after Capt Amarinder Singh arrived at Bathinda on his way to the venue of the conference. The Panthic Morcha and the Lok Bhalai parties, too, got a satisfactory response as this town of the Malwa belt witnessed a sea of humanity converging there to pay obeisance to 40 “muktas” of Guru Gobind Singh.

The opposition parties also had a dig at the NDA government at the Centre and the SAD for raising the “bogey or war.”

While the SAD-BJP leadership, supported by the Haryana and Himachal Pradesh Chief Ministers, Mr Om Prakash Chautala and Prof Prem Kumar Dhumal, respectively, eulogised the contribution of Punjab in warding off external threats, maintaining that every challenge to the unity, integrity and sovereignty of the country would be met strongly, the Opposition parties cautioned people against the use of Punjab as “battlefield” for narrow “political and electoral gain in Uttar Pradesh.”

The Chief Minister held that while the only agenda of other parties was “to attack and malign Parkash Singh Badal”, the ruling alliance was seeking votes on the basis of its performance during the past five years, besides promising to make Punjab the number one state in the next five years.

“Neither the Congress nor the Panthic Morcha has any positive agenda to take to people. They are out only to criticise the present government in general and me in particular. I have no personal enmity either with Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra or Capt Amarinder Singh. But it is the interest of the state, its people, both urban and rural, to which we are committed,” Mr Badal said, adding that there was no possibility of unity with the Panthic Morcha.

Reeling out the achievements of his government, he said he did not understand what the Panthic leadership, including Mr Tohra, meant by Panthic agenda.

“If tercentenary celebrations of the birth of the Khalsa, bicentenary celebrations of the coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, construction of Sikh Heritage Museum at Anandpur Sahib, getting a Central commission to look into the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, restoration of honour and pride of the Sikhs throughout the country and setting up of a Constitutional Review Commission to look into our demand for Centre-state relations were not Panthic agenda, what was. “Probably sitting in a tent and criticising Parkash Singh Badal constituted Panthic agenda for them. What did he do for “dharam parchar” when he headed the SGPC for 25 years? Did he have any Panthic agenda?,” Mr Badal said after getting into his specially-designed bus at the end of the rally. He was brought to the rally in a wheel-chair.

The Chief Minister also held that cordial relations between the Centre and the state was a requisite for the overall development of the state. “If farmers of Punjab got their due in the shape of remunerative minimum support price and procurement of each grain produced by them, it was because of such relations with the Centre.

“The development in the state during the past five years was far more than what the Congress gave to Punjab in 50 years,” he claimed.

Besides Mr Badal, the Haryana and Himachal Pradesh Chief Ministers also cautioned people against “nefarious designs” of the Congress whom they described as “anti-farmer and anti-Punjab.”

Prof Dhumal had “responsive” members of the audience, sporting yellow head-bands and carrying yellow flags, raise their hands in consent in continuing their support to the SAD-BJP alliance.

It was Agriculture Minister Gurdev Singh Badal who made scathing attacks not only on Panthic Morcha leaders but also on Lok Bhalai chief Balwant Singh Ramoowalia for using derogatory language against Mr Parkash Singh Badal. Others who addressed the rally included Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal and the newly appointed chief of the youth wing of the SAD, Mr S.S. Dhillon.


Badal has secret pact with Cong: Tohra
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, January 14
Panthic Morcha leader Gurcharan Singh Tohra, addressing a political conference here today, claimed that the morcha had the support of the people of Punjab. He said the people would not let past rulers to come into power and would oust the present ones. Mr Tohra said he was against government interference in religious matters. He alleged that Mr Parkash Singh Badal had violated Akal Takht traditions.

From left, Mr G.S. Tohra, Mr S.S. Mann, Mr Jasbir Singh Rode and Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra at a political conference at Maghi Mela in Muktsar on Monday.
— Tribune photo Manoj Mahajan

Mr Tohra alleged that Mr Badal had a secret pact with the Congress. He said Mr Badal had fielded a “weak” candidate from the Patiala Assembly constituency.

Referring to the pact with the Bahujan Samaj Party, he said there was no conflict between the two over seat-sharing. He said talks were on between the morcha and the BSP over seat adjustments. Mr Tohra also accused Mr Badal of leaving behind the mainstream Akalis’ panthic agenda, which included maintaining the dignity of Akal Takht.

Mr Tohra and other senior morcha leaders, including Akali Dal (Amritsar) President Simranjit Singh Mann lambasted the Punjab Chief Minister by blaming him for the non-fulfilment of the demands of Punjab.

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