The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sushma points to PM on Badal

Chandigarh, Dec. 6: The Prime Minister will decide if central intervention is needed to halt the “politics of vendetta” launched by Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh against predecessor Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir, Sushma Swaraj said today.

Shiromani Akali Dal president Badal and Sukhbir, a Rajya Sabha member, are now lodged in judicial custody in Patiala central jail.

Asked if the Centre had sought a report on the situation in Punjab from the governor, the Union parliamentary affairs minister told The Telegraph: “The deputy Prime Minister will seek it.”

“The Prime Minister is not in India at the moment. He will decide what to do when he returns. My visit to Patiala today to gain first-hand knowledge on how the Badals are being treated inside jail follows a complaint made by Sukhbir’s wife Harsimrat to Rajya Sabha chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat that her husband and father-in-law were being ill-treated by the jail authorities,” Swaraj said at the airport before emplaning for New Delhi.

The Badals have been in judicial detention since Monday in a case of disproportionate assets in which they were chargesheeted by the state vigilance bureau. Their plea for interim bail was rejected by a Ropar court on December 1 and they were sent to judicial custody with three other accused till December 13. Their plea for regular bail is listed for hearing in the Supreme Court on Monday and before Ropar special judge S.K. Goyal on Tuesday.

Lashing out at Amarinder, Swaraj said the Congress chief minister should “learn a lesson” from the fall of Ajit Jogi in Chhattisgarh. “Both Amarinder and Jogi follow the politics of repression. Jogi has been dethroned. Amarinder, too, will meet the same fate. The people of this country can never tolerate the kind of vendetta that is being pursued in Punjab,” Swaraj said.

She added that both Jogi and Amarinder had held dharnas before Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s residence when they should have been inside discussing their demands. “They threw the propriety of their own offices to the wind by resorting to dharnas. Amarinder should understand that chief ministers and Prime Ministers are not individuals. They represent institutions and have to abide by certain norms.

“I have no idea if Jogi learnt it from Amarinder or Amarinder from Jogi. But the people of this country have never liked political vendetta,” she said.

Terming Amarinder a politician “devoid of political decency”, Swaraj said the Punjab chief minister would prove to be “a greater liability” for Congress president Sonia Gandhi than Jogi. “The Congress leadership should now rise above partisan politics and stop Amarinder. It will dig the Congress’ grave. Amarinder’s conduct absolutely demeans political decency. Public anger will drown him and his party.”

On whether the Akali Dal’s threat to launch a mass movement against the Congress government could lead to the re-emergence of the terror witnessed by the state in the eighties and nineties, Swaraj said though she did not feel it could lead to terrorism, “the people will rise in protest against the repressive policies of Amarinder”.

Swaraj, who was accompanied to Patiala jail by Union minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Akali parliamentarians Zora Singh Mann and Tarlochan Singh Toor, said the Badals had been kept like ordinary jail prisoners.

“They have now been kept together after the intervention of the Rajya Sabha chairman. But they are not being allowed to meet other prisoners and restrictions have also been put on visitors meeting them. Today, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee president Gurcharan Singh Tohra was not allowed to meet the Badals with us. The jail authorities insisted that only four persons who had got permission could see them. They did not even offer a chair to Tohra,” Swaraj lamented.

Terming the Badals as “brave-faced” inside jail, the Union minister said their mood was “better” than what she had expected. “No jail can subdue them,” she added.

Swaraj reiterated that the BJP and the NDA stood in support with the Akali Dal in their hour of crisis.

“Amarinder must know Akali history. They have always boldly faced repression. People, angered by repression, have pulled down governments,” she said, adding that the entire country stood solidly behind the Akali Dal.

Amarinder was not available for comment.

BJP sources here said Swaraj, apart from meeting Shekhawat, will also report to deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani on the Punjab situation. “We expect central intervention any time. It could be anything, drastic too,” a senior BJP leader said.

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