Punjab CM rubbishes demands for change of guard

Chandigarh: Till the other day, the opposition Congress in Punjab was gunning for cabinet minister Bikram Singh Majithia, whose only claim to fame is that he is the brother-in-law of all-powerful Deputy Chief Minister and ruling Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal. But now Majithia has been shown his place by none other than Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal himself.

Majithia, who is a big power centre in Punjab, thanks to Sukhbir Badal, got a satirical dressing down from Badal Sr at a function in Jalandhar in the presence of scores of non-resident Indians (NRIs). Standing next to the chief minister on the dais, an embarrassed Majithia had no place to hide as Badal continued with the barbs.

“Eh puchhoh jail katti hai? Ehna nu taan pakki pakayee mil gayee hai. Main satarah saal jail katti hai (Ask if he (Majithia) has been to jail. He got everything on a platter. I have spent 17 years in jails),” Badal Sr said while addressing the NRI conference, his barbs clearly aimed at Majithia.

“Thaal paros ke phadata, hun kabza karan nu phirde ne. Tussi vee badi tareef karde ho (We gave them (Majithia) the platter, now they want to take control (of the chair),” Badal continued as the audience laughed heartily but Majithia could hardly hide his embarrassment.

“Akali Dal koi saukhi gal nahin. Bada kuchh kita hai, taan ja ke assi lokan da confidence jiteya teh sarkaraan baniyaan han…..Mehnat karo, assi taan apna sama tapa leyaa…tagde ho ke inhaan di sewa karo (The Akali Dal is not an easy thing. We have done a lot and won the confidence of the people. That’s how Akali governments have been formed….work hard, we have spent our time. Now, work hard to serve them (people),” the chief minister added.

He even mentioned the names of senior party leaders, some of whom have been sidelined in the Akali Dal by the Sukhbir-Majithia duo, who had been to jail during the struggling years of the Akali Dal.

Having said what was on his mind, Badal tried to lighten the situation saying: “Sorry jee, jara idhar-urdhar di gallan….(Sorry, I took up other things).”

Badal’s sarcastic comments seemed to be the outcome of what is happening with the Badal family – Punjab’s first political family – and the Akali Dal. The control of the Sukhbir-Majithia duo over the government and the party is complete.

Majithia is the younger brother of Sukhbir’s wife, Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur.

That the comments from Badal Sr, 85, came at an NRI conference that was organized by Majithia and was being termed as a “highly successful” event by the duo, makes it clear that a power struggle has begun in the family.

At the conference itself, some NRIs openly demanded that Badal Sr step down to make way for Sukhbir. This, for now, does not seem to have gone down well with the octogenarian leader.

Just a day after his taunts, Badal Sr tried to downplay his comments by trying to defend Majithia.

But the Congress, which has termed Majithia as the “greatest goon”, was quick to take advantage of Badal’s barbs. “We had told him (Badal) to rein in Majithia but he did not listen earlier,” Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh said.

The Congress leader even questioned Badal’s credentials on spending 17 years in jails. “Let him tell us which jails he spent this much of time. He spent his time in the state rest houses, amidst all the comforts that anyone could get. He had a standard way of provoking people to violence, getting himself lodged in the government guest houses and coming out to win elections.”

Some in the Punjab government and the Akali Dal are questioning what the Sukhbir-Majithia duo is going to deliver after the “successful” conference.

“They had organized an NRI conference in the first year of the previous term (2007-12) also. After that, nothing was done. This time they have repeated the same things,” a senior Akali Dal leader said.

The conference, like the one in January 2008, saw Sukhbir Badal making a power-point presentation promising the moon to NRIs to seek investments for Punjab.

He talked of big things, including Punjab becoming power surplus by next year and even supplying electricity to Pakistan. But for the common man, be it in Ludhiana, Bathinda, Moga or Hoshiarpur, there seemed to be no respite from power cuts – ranging from six hours to 10 hrs a day.

By Jaideep Sarin (IANS)

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