Thursday, May 16, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Badal sought UPSC berth for Sidhu
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 15
Delivering a political punch to the former Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today released two letters said to be written by Mr Badal to the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, requesting Punjab Public Service Commission Chairman Ravinder Pal Singh Sidhu’s appointment as a member of the Union Public Service Commission. Mr Sidhu is at present lodged in the Patiala jail in connection with the alleged job-for-cash scam.

The first letter was written on October 16 and the second on December 26 last year. Pleading the case of Mr Sidhu for his elevation to the UPSC, Mr Badal stated in the October letter that “at present there are two vacancies of member in the UPSC. Shri Sidhu is the seniormost Chairman in the country of a state Public Service Commission and is from the non-government side. Moreover, Punjab has not been given any representation on the UPSC for the past 20 years and his appointment will be very much in the interest of the people of Punjab and the state”.

In this letter, Mr Badal also reminded Mr Vajpayee of his earlier meeting with him in May and also about a letter written on May 3 in this connection. “You had kindly agreed to consider my request sympathetically”, Mr Badal further said in the letter.

In the second letter, written for the same purpose on December 26, when the elections to the Punjab Assembly were announced, Mr Badal referred to the telephone call made by him on Sunday (December 23, 2001) to Mr Vajpayee. And then reiterated his request stating “ at present there is one vacancy in the UPSC which can be filled from the non-government side as out of a total strength of 11, Chairman and members, seven are from the government side.... his appointment will be very much in the interest of people of the Punjab and the border state particularly at this critical juncture. I hope you will consider my request sympathetically, as it is personally and politically important to me”. The two letters bear the despatch number of the personal correspondence of the Chief Minister. These don’t bear the despatch number of either the confidential branch or the follow-up branch, a routine which is normally followed in the Chief Minister’s office.

Commenting on the release of the letters, Mr Badal said in Jalandhar that it was just diversionary tactics adopted by Capt Amarinder Singh following the resignation of the head of the one-man inquiry commission, Justice A.S.Garg, the appointment of whom had been described by the former Chief Minister as an effort to conduct a sham probe by the present government to defame political rivals. Where were the letters found? Informed sources said that during a raid on the office of the Punjab Public Service Commission in Patiala about a month ago, the Vigilance Bureau found the letters among the records there. These were withheld by the government authorities concerned for release at the appropriate time. As the government got adverse publicity on Justice Garg’s resignation, it thought of releasing the letters to add “more substance” to Sidhu episode. How was Mr Sidhu’s appointment personally and politically important to Mr Badal? “This is the most puzzling question as far as I am concerned”, said Capt Amarinder Singh when asked to comment on this part of Mr Badal’s letter.

Capt Amarinder Singh said that one thing was very clear: Mr Badal and Sidhu were working in tandem.

When asked whether Mr Badal would be questioned about these letters, Capt Amarinder Singh said: “You mediapersons ask him questions in this connection”. He said investigation was on in this case and the matter was also sub judice. “But one thing I want to assure all concerned is that no one, whoever he may be, will be spared in this case”, he added.

He said that Mr Badal wanted to send Sidhu to the UPSC before the elections. Perhaps, Mr Badal knew what was happening in the Punjab Public Service Commission and wanted to send Mr Sidhu to the UPSC to provide him protection from any investigation as he would become a member of a national-level constitutional body.

Talking about other controversial issues, Capt Amarinder Singh said that he did not send Punjab commandos to trouble-torn Gujarat as their services were required in the state. He said the situation in this part of the country was not normal. He referred to yesterday’s incident in Jammu. Regarding the arrest of defaulter farmers in the Malwa region by the Cooperative Bank, he said the officials concerned had been told to release all farmers and not to make any more arrests. Only the legal procedure should be adopted to recover the loan money.

He thanked Justice Garg for resigning on his own. A request would be made to the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court soon to spare a Judge for quick disposal of the task that was assigned to Justice Garg.

When asked whether his government would frame a right to information Act, as had been done by Rajasthan, he said: “My government believes in the policy of glasnost practised by M. Gorbachev about a decade ago”, he added. He promised to examine the Rajasthan law.

Asked about the charges levelled by Mr Manpreet Singh Badal about the implicating of Akali workers in false cases, Capt Amarinder Singh said that when the SAD-BJP government came to power in 1997, in its first six months it registered 204 cases under the Excise Act, etc, in the Muktsar belt against Congress workers. The number of cases registered now was far less, he said. 


Badal confesses

Jalandhar, May 15
Former Punjab Chief Minister and SAD president Parkash Singh Badal today acknowledged having written two letters to the Prime Minister recommending the appointment of now-tainted PPSC Chairman Ravinder Pal Sidhu as member of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). “There was no personal motive behind these letters and nor was I aware of the credentials of Sidhu’’, he said while answering repeated queries of mediapersons at a press conference here. UNI



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