The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Akalis back to Congress bashing

Chandigarh, July 9: The Akalis are back to doing what they do best: blame the Congress and the Gandhi family for all the ills in the country and hold them responsible for “subjugating” Sikhs.

At meeting after meeting, Shiromani Akali Dal president Parkash Singh Badal has been reminding people about the Emergency and Operation Bluestar in November 1984.

The former Punjab chief minister has also blamed Congress president Sonia Gandhi for the vigilance raids on his properties and businesses. “Amarinder Singh is doing everything at her bidding,” he has said.

Though the raids have stopped with chief minister Amarinder busy at the Congress’ Shimla brainstorming session, Badal has kept up his tirade.

While the Akali chief is touring the state with his tale of woes regarding the corruption cases and raids at his and son Sukhbir’s properties, the party has begun a vitriolic no-holds-barred media war against the Congress.

The Congress, on the other hand, has been busy filming the interiors of the Badal residences to expose the “corruption that thrives in the BJP-led government at the Centre”. The Akali Dal is an ally of the BJP at the Centre.

A recent advertisement in a local daily by the Akali Dal said Amarinder has suddenly turned into a billionaire from a state of bankruptcy by repaying a debt of Rs 9 crore to a national bank.

The advertisement also detailed the number of airconditioners Amarinder has in his Moti Bagh palace in Patiala and accused him of, among other things, using public money to renovate the palace.

Another advertisement warned that Sikhs would again be used as “electoral ammunition”, as was the case in 1984, and charged the Congress with painting the community as corrupt.

“Did one Mrs Gandhi not use Sikh Congress leaders to dub the Sikh community as terrorist' Is another Mrs Gandhi (not) using Amarinder to frame Punjabis as corrupt'” it asked.

The advertisement said the Congress was tarnishing the image of a community famous for its honesty and chivalry.

Badal is now seeking President’s rule. “My party is against invoking Article 356, but with no law and order in the state, we have no choice but to demand President’s rule. I know it will be a sad day for the country when President’s rule is clamped on Punjab. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Amarinder will be responsible for it,” he said.

Incidentally, during the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee elections earlier this year, Badal had “appealed” to Sonia to “stop” Amarinder from arresting SGPC members and sending policemen inside the Golden Temple on the polling day.

Sonia, Akali sources say, had intervened on Badal’s request and asked Amarinder to refrain from any activity that would infuriate the Akalis.

With Badal equating the cases against him as a scar on the community, the only people who seem to be worried are the police. Most officers admit that the move could lead to Akali workers spilling on to streets in the rural areas and disturbing law and order. “Meetings are being held every day on how to control problems that arise,” a senior officer said. “The police will have to wrestle with any problem on its own. We are not expecting any help if there is political trouble in Punjab,” the officer added.

“What is happening in Punjab today is similar to what had happened during Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale’s times. The only difference this time is that no AK-47 is being brandished along with the rhetoric. If Badal continues blaming the Congress for Punjab’s ills for some more time, it could lead to the re-emergence of terror. After all, the Akalis’ silence had led to militancy in the eighties and nineties,” a top police officer said.

With Amarinder busy at the Congress meet in Shimla, raids on Badal properties have stopped.

The Congress has now appointed a private advertisement agency to release statements and counter advertisements from New Delhi instead of Chandigarh. “We want to combat the Akali propaganda effectively,” a senior Congress leader said.

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