CLEARLY PICKING SIDES in a no-holds-barred dirty war between the Badal cousins, former Rajya Sabha MP and media baron Barjinder Singh Hamdard today came down heavily on Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, saying his diatribe against Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal was nothing but cheap shots triggered by personal pique and he has only exposed his own "inner shallowness."
In a hard-hitting signed editorial in Ajit, Punjab's top mass circulation daily newspaper, Hamdard, whose word counts in not only Akali circles but the wider state politics, said, "After the kind of budget Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal presented, it was natural for the opposition to criticise it."
"But, instead of logically countering such criticism, the kind of invective he (Manpreet Badal) spewed regarding the langar on the occasion of late Mrs Surinder Kaur Badal's bhog and also about veteran and elderly leader Prakash Singh Badal, has only diminished his own stature and also brought out the inner shallowness of this man who considers himself an "intellectual" (apne app nu budhijeevi samjhade iss viyakti de...andarle halkepan nu vee ujagar keeta hai)," Hamdard wrote.
The editorial criticised similar personal quibbles between members of all three principal political parties in Punjab, the Congress, the Akali Dal as well as the Aam Aadmi Party, in equal measure.
"The invective Manpreet Badal spewed regarding langar served during bhog of late Mrs Surinder Kaur Badal and his comments about veteran leader Parkash Singh Badal only diminished his own stature and brought out the inner shallowness of this self-proclaimed intellectual.”
"During the rather short Budget Session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, instead of discussing the serious issues facing the state, the politicians spent time in casting aspersions, taking cheap shots against each other and even hurling abuses and indulge in personal attacks. All of this not only created avoidable tension and strain but also adversely impacted the standing of the Punjab Assembly as an institution," the editorial said.
But it was Manpreet Singh Badal who was the main target of Hamdard's piercing criticism. It assumes significance when this dirty and open fight does not seem to be subsiding. In fact, Manpreet Singh Badal kept up attack and even claimed he had proof of misuse of SGPC resources during the bhog of Badal Sr's wife, Surinder Kaur.
Sukhbir Singh Badal had dared Manpreet to make public any evidence he had to back his allegations. Manpreet had even claimed that Sukhbir Singh Badal had received a car in dowry that was bought by the Majithia family on instalments.
"The very man he (Manpreet) was castigating was the one who initiated him into politics because he was his nephew. For long, this senior statesman kept him as his finance minister. Everyone is well aware that Manpreet quit because of personal pique," Hamdard wrote.
The editorial also mentioned the ugly exchanges between Bikram Singh Majithia and Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, Sukhpal Singh Khaira and former minister Gurjit Singh Rana and claimed that it has left the people disappointed.
With this latest salvo, the ball is now in the court of Manpreet Badal and the people of Punjab will await if the estranged but now in power cousin will take the fight any further.
Meanwhile, many other Congress leaders have jumped headlong in this arena, backing the Finance Minister. Punjab Congress Vice president Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, SS Sukhsarkia, Balbir Singh Sidhu, Kuljit Singh Nagra, Barinder Singh Pahra, Tarsem DC, Inderbir Bolaria, Dharamvir Agnihotri and Amit Vij (all MLAs) said that instead of challenging Manpreet Badal to prove charges, the SAD president should come clean about the charges made by the finance minister.
"Why you have limited challenge to prove SGPC spending on bhog of Late Smt Surinder Kaur?, Why are you not including the facts of taking dowry, spending government money on medical facilities of family members, misuse of government helicopter, and accumulating wealth by using government machinery," said Sukhjinder Randhawa, who said that Sukhbir’s silence on other charges affirms that he and his father former CM Parkash Singh Badal had used government exchequer for personal benefits.
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