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India Split In Badal Family, Amarinder Returns To Centrestage


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Split in Badal Family, Amarinder Returns to Centrestage

An ugly feud in the Badal clan, if not the squabbles with ally BJP, kept the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) occupied this year while former chief minister Amarinder Singh returned to the centrestage of Punjab politics after the Supreme Court quashed his expulsion from assembly.

The row in the Badal family started with Manpreet Singh Badal, who was finance minister and also nephew of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, endorsing a central government's reported offer to waive a debt of Rs 35,000 crore, close to half of the state's total debt burden, in return for acceding to certain conditions laid down by the Centre.

In the political crisis emerging out of proposed central debt waiver issue, which according to the Akalis was never on paper, Badal supported his son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.

The ruling SAD went all out against Manpreet who ruled out reconciliation with Sukhbir. The defiant finance minister was sacked from the post and also expelled from the party.

While Sukhbir maintained that he had ideological differences with his cousin, Manpreet criticised the "corporate style of functioning" of the deputy chief minister.

However, in the opposition Congress it was a major victory for Amarinder Singh as the apex court ruled that his expulsion from the state assembly on September 10, 2008 was "constitutionally invalid" and ordered restoration of his membership.

The former chief minister was expelled from the House for "breach of privilege" after a resolution was passed on the basis of the report of a special committee appointed by the Punjab Assembly on alleged irregularities in granting exemption to land in a prime location to benefit certain land developers.

The Congress high command gave reins of the party in the state to Amarinder who had led the Congress to victory in the 2002 Punjab polls.

The BJP, on whose critical support SAD formed the government, faced an embarrassment after a spat between Chief Parliamentary Secretary (CPS) Jagdish Raj Sawhney and Health Minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla following raids on diagnostic centres associated with the relatives of the CPS.

Both Sawhney and Chawla accused each other of corruption. The sparring reached a flashpoint and Sawhney resigned from his post.

In yet another sign of SAD's uneasy ties with the BJP, Local Bodies Minister Manoranjan Kalia accused the government of "unfair treatment" on several issues concerning the state.

The much awaited two-member committee report on suggesting ways for additional resource mobilisation for Punjab, which is reeling under severe fund crunch, proposed fresh taxes, hike in VAT and bus fares.

It recommended introduction of new taxes on property, institution, DTH service, electricity duty on power generation and surcharge on VAT to generate additional Rs 4,000 crore per annum.

Punjab, which won its battle against militancy in early 1990s, saw the arrest of some ultras in different parts of the state, including Batala and Nabha, while they were planning to strike at vital installations.

Militants infiltrated in Gurdaspur sector and in a gunfight two of them were killed while police also lost two of its men.

Waking up to the Maoist threat, the state police sought Rs 100 crore special central assistance for capacity building.

The government dissolved Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) and replaced it with the state-owned companies. The decision, which came seven years after the new Electricity Act, 2003 called for re-structuring of state electricity utilities along professional lines, has resulted in separation of transmission from generation and distribution functions.

The PSEB employees protested the move for couple of days before agreeing the new arrangement.

It was a harsh year for domestic consumers as power bills shot up with the state electricity regulatory panel announcing a 7.5 per cent tariff hike for all categories.

Not only this, Punjab hiked electricity duty from ten to 13 per cent making power in the state the second most expensive in the country even as industrialists protested the move.

There was some good news too for the Badal family as after three years of trial in a disproportionate assets case, a Mohali court acquitted all the accused, including Badal, his wife Surinder Kaur and their son Sukhbir.

Even as Punjab raked up the issue demanding payment of royalty by other states using the water of its rivers, floods wreaked havoc in around seven districts of the state.

Panic gripped border areas in month of January as Pakistan fired two rockets into the periphery of border outpost in Amritsar district.

The year also saw Punjab getting a new governor. 73-year-old former Home Minister Shivraj V Patil was picked by the Congress high command to replace S F Rodrigues, whose tenure ended.

Not only Congress, BJP too got a new chief in Punjab as Ashwini Sharma was elected for the coveted post.

For the first time a former Jathedar was ex-communicated by Akal Takht, the temporal seat of Sikhs. The Sikh high priests ex-communicated Prof Darshan Singh for his controversial discourse in the US and for his defiant posture towards the Sikh clergy.

Avtar Singh Makkar was re-elected president of SGPC for a sixth successive term. He was elected to the post for the first time in 2005 and is the second incumbent to occupy top seat of sikh religious body for the maximum number of terms after late Gurcharan Singh Tohra who had remained its head for 27 terms.

In February, members of Christian and Hindu communities clashed and vandalised public property over publication of a picture of Jesus Christ in an objectionable manner by a Delhi-based publisher forcing authorities to clamp curfew in Batala.

In the same month, followers of Dera Sacha Sauda went on rampage at several places to protest registration of a murder case by the CBI against sect head Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

The incidents prompted the Punjab government to bring in Punjab Prevention of Damage to Public and Private Property ordinance to protect public and private property from vandalism and punish those indulging in such acts during agitations.

The CBI filed a charge sheet against Vidhan Sabha Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon and others for their alleged involvement in rigging the selection of 909 Panchayat Secretaries during 1997-2002 when the SAD was in power.

The state drew international limelight when Prince Charles came calling and visited Fatehgarh Sahib district where he interacted with farmers.

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Sukhbir Badal da Future………….

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