Friday, May 3, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Badal, SAD MLAs to stay away
Vidhan Sabha golden jubilee celebrations
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 2
Another chance of formal exchange of pleasantries between the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the former Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, will be missed at the historic function in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha tomorrow.

Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr Badal have not yet exchanged pleasantries, which is normal between the Chief Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Usually, the Leader of the Opposition congratulates the Chief Minister immediately after the latter takes the oath of office. However, neither Mr Badal nor any other senior leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal was present at the oath-taking ceremony of Capt Amarinder Singh.

Even on March 21, when newly elected persons took the oath as members of the Vidhan Sabha, there was no formal meeting between Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr Badal. When Mr Badal came to take the oath in the Speaker’s chamber, Capt Amarinder Singh had left for Punjab Bhavan.

Both Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr Badal have been invited to the important ceremonies to be held in the Vidhan Sabha as part of its golden jubilee celebrations tomorrow. As per the programme, both are supposed to be present together at the ceremonial gate of the Assembly complex to receive the Governor of Punjab and later accompany him to the House. The last time they met was in Delhi in November last year when Capt Amarinder Singh and his wife called on Mr Badal in the hospital where he was admitted following a major fracture.

Mr Badal will not attend the jubilee celebrations. Talking to TNS, Mr Badal said that he would not be able to go to the Assembly because of “movement problems.” He said he had difficulty in climbing stairs and also in walking without support. “ Because of this reason, I will not attend the celebrations”, he added. When asked whether he had received any invitation from the Vidhan Sabha to participate in the celebrations, being the oldest member of the Assembly and also the leader of the main Opposition party, Mr Badal said: “I believe that I have got the invitation”.

When asked who would represent the party in the celebrations, Mr Badal said that perhaps Mr Balwinder Singh Bhunder or some other senior leader would attend the function. However, not only Mr Badal but also several other Akali MLAs will stay away from the celebrations. And the reason for this is political.

Informed sources said that in the past four months there had been a lot of bad blood between Shiromani Akali Dal leaders and the Congress, especially between Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr Badal. Immediately after the announcement regarding the Assembly elections, they were involved in a bitter fight through election-related advertisements.

The bitterness between the two parties and their main leaders has now intensified. Akali leaders, apprehensive of police cases have approached courts to seek anticipatory bail. That seems to be the real reason why Mr Badal is not attending tomorrow’s function. The SAD has not given the name of any leader who will speak on the floor of the House about parliamentary traditions, debates, history, etc. Six leaders are to speak in the House.

Otherwise, Mr Badal is to be one of the four former Chief Ministers to be honoured on the floor of the Assembly tomorrow by the Punjab Governor. He is the oldest member as far as the number of terms in the Assembly is concerned.

Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, Governor of Uttaranchal, is also scheduled to come to the Assembly. He will be presented with a guard of honour at the ceremonial gate, according to the programme.

The controversial Sikh leader, Dr Jagjit Singh Chohan, will also be honoured. He is a former Deputy Speaker of the Assembly. According to the programme released by the Vidhan Sabha, Dr Chohan’s name figures on the top of the list of former deputy speakers to be honoured by Dr Kewal Krishan, Speaker, on the floor of the House. It has been alleged in the past that Dr Chohan was a staunch protagonist of “Khalistan” and stayed in London for several years pursuing his goal. However, of late, he has remained silent on political issues.

List of those to be honoured in the Vidhan Sabha: Former Chief Ministers: Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, Mr Harcharan Singh Brar and Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal; Distinguished Parliamentarians: Chaudhary Ranbir Singh, Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, Mr Umrao Singh, Mr Satya Pal Dang and Capt Rattan Singh; Former Speakers: Justice Harbans Lal, Dr Kewal Krishan, Mr Ravi Inder Singh, Mr Surjit Singh Minhas, Mr Harnam Dass Johar and Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal; Former Deputy Speakers: Dr Jagjit Singh Chohan, Mr Nasib Singh Gill, Mr Panna Lal Nayyar, Mr Gulzar Singh, Mr Nirmal Singh Kahlon, Mr Jaswant Singh, Mr Ramesh Chander Dogra, Mr Naresh Thakur, Chaudhary Swarna Ram, Dr Baldev Raj Chawla and Mr Satpal Gosain; Oldest secretary of the Vidhan Sabha: Pandit Krishan Swaroop.

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