CHANDIGARH: Faced with an unenviable situation of responding to the Supreme Court on March 28 on its stand on the SYL canal, and knowing fully well that the apex court has drawn a hard line, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has now played the "terrorism will come back" card and dragged even Pakistan into the narrative in his efforts to mount a credible argument against a possible adverse verdict.
In his first detailed remarks dwelling upon the strategy Punjab plans to adopt in the Supreme Court, Amarinder Singh said any decision to force Punjab to construct the Sutlej Yamuna Link canal "can lead to terrorism."
Arguing that the construction of the SYL canal may adversely impact hundreds of villages in southern Punjab, Amarinder Singh said the region could see not just a plunging water table or crop yields falling, but even a revival of terrorism. "It always starts in southern Punjab. In the 1960s, naxalism started in southern Punjab. The militancy hotbed was in southern Punjab. There is a great emotional upset in this area...If you go back to the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, you will see that the issue of river waters or SYL was a key issue," Amarinder Singh told India Today's Karan Thapar in a TV interview, his first after becoming CM.
"If there is an upheaval in Punjab, will Pakistan not take advantage of it?" the Chief Minister said.
Meanwhile, Punjab Advocate-General Atul Nanda said the state will be approaching the Central government on the SYL issue, clearly a move that efforts will now be directed towards finding an out of court settlement. Amarinder Singh's scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi now assumes a new importance in this context.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has asked for a special session of Vidhan Sabha on the SYL issue.
A senior AAP leader said it was very important for the party to take the sheen away from Amarinder and Akali Dal (Badal) on the issue of being protecters of Punjab's river waters.
"Our party has throughout said both Akali Dal and Congress has hand in glove with each other. Now, Akali Dal is silent about scrapping the water already flowing to Rajasthan and Haryana. Even Amarinder had protected this water flow by introducing Clause 5 in the Termination of Agreements Act, 2004. The Akalis promised to scrap the clause but did not. Now, both have stopped talking about this part. A special session of Assembly on the issue will bring the focus on it," said a senior AAP MLA now holding a key position and thus capable of deciding AAP's stance in any such session.
Amarinder Singh did not miss a chance to hit out at the Akalis, and questioned the long drawn agitation waged by the Akali Dal for Punjabi Suba in the 1960s, a legacy Akali Dal is proud of and something it celebrates with great gusto every year.
"We gained nothing from Punjabi Suba's formation. We lost our industrial belt, we lost our forest belt, we lost our river belt, we lost 40 percent of our territory -- and all of it so that it becomes a Sikh majority state so that Badal can become its CM at some point of time," Amarinder Singh said, his remarks coming without much provocation on the part of the interviewer.
Also, in observations that will gladden the hearts of Punjab's business and industry community, Amarinder Singh said his government will follow a policy of extreme liberalism and liberlisation.
"Punjab's industry policy will be liberalised very, very soon. We have been working on it for two years now. Top industrialists have been calling me already to tell me they want to set up industry in Punjab. I had brought in a lot of IT industry in Mohali which Akalis have shut down," Amarinder Singh said.