Cabinet colleagues target Capt Amarinder on failure to nail Bikram Majithia
Chandigarh, February 18: It is the narrative that was waiting for months to be played out and it was the Punjab Vidhan Sabha that provided the stage and the timing. The issue was the alleged tacit understanding between Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and the Badals. Hitting out at the Chief Minister were local bodies minister Navjot singh Sidhu and cooperation minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa in the context of former Akali minister Bikram Singh Majithia who is brother-in-law of Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal.
The timing coincided with the presentation of the budget by finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal whose salient feature was reduction in VAT by Rs 5 per litre on petrol and Re 1 per litre on diesel but the same was not part of the written speech and he made this announcement towards the end.
The budget is as apolitical as the Congress government in the state in the absence of political thrust. Of course, the hike in education sector by 9.75 per cent and health sector by 10.87 per cent is appreciable as both these sectors are now chronically sick.
The drama started when Manpreet got up to present the budget and the Akali Dal and AAP MLAs tried to disrupt him. the Akali Dal wanted to move a resolution against Sidhu for his remarks on Pulwama terror attack and in the process, dragged him into the controversy beginning with his famous hug with Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
AAP walked out but Akalis continued with slogan shouting in the well of the House. Sidhu and Majithia entered into heated exchanges after a few minutes. Majithia questioned his relations with Pakistan. Sidhu pointed out to Bikram that his sister (Harsimrat Kaur Badal) too had gone to Pakistan to attend the Kartarpur Sahib corridor function where General Bajwa was also present.
The high decibel angry exchange between the two led to the unprecedented adjournment of the house for some time when the finance minister was continuing with his budget speech.
The Congress factionalism at the top surfaced as the House was adjourned with both Sidhu and Randhawa saying it was because of the kid glove treatment that encouraged Bikram. They had supporters among the MLAs too. Some ministers and MLAs then rushed to Capt Amarinder Singh and were seen talking to him.
Capt Amarinder Singh perhaps had never expected that he himself would become the target but this situation has been simmering over time. It may be mentioned that Randhawa had taken up at a cabinet meeting a few months back the issue of special security arrangements for Majithia by the police and he produced documents as evidence.
It is pertinent to mention that Sidhu had said after the Pulwama attack that the entire people of Pakistan could not be blamed for this action by some people in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed by a human bomb driving explosive laden vehicle. The attacker was from Pulwama area, a local youth.
He today asserted while talking to the media persons that he would stick to his stand.
A few minutes earlier, former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who was present in the lobby but did not attend the House, had demanded registration of a case against Sidhu and his sack from the cabinet.
But then the basic issue is not the Sidhu-Majithia spat but the embarrassment that Capt Amarinder Singh faced from his own colleagues.
Capt Amarinder Singh had taken a strong stand on the Pulwama issue challenging General Bajwa. His stand was in tune with the national frenzied sentiment. Sidhu, however, was and is trying to be pragmatic on this sensitive issue.
Why should people continue to die in Kashmir irrespective of as to who they are?
The situation has deteriorated during the last three years.
Forty is too big a number. Even one death should be the cause of concern.