Congress-BJP plaque battle on Kartarpur corridor ceremony
The foundation stone laying ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor was Monday marred by an ugly controversy over its plaque as both the ruling Congress in Punjab and the opposition Akali Dal vied to take credit for the project.
The trouble started after state minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa objected to the names of the former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and former deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal being engraved on the plaque just hours before it was be unveiled by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
A fuming Randhawa, who was reviewing the arrangements for an event in Mann village, took up the matter with the officials responsible and said he does not want his name on a plaque with the Badals.
He even went to the extent of putting a black tape on his name, besides that of the CM and other Congress leaders. The harried officials finally got rid of the plaque and the project was inaugurated on a screen but members of both the parties heckled each other's leaders when they were addressing the gathering.
Punjab Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Siddhu said he stayed away from the event as he was not into "credit war".
Randhawa had earlier raised objections to the names of Badals on the plaque, saying if their names were engraved on it, then the names of other Congress leaders should be too.
"I asked them (authorities) what is the status of Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal in the government? If they want to write their names then the name of Rajinder Kaur Bhattal (Congress leader and former CM) and others should also be there," he said.
"It is not a political function. It is a government function and I told them their (Badals) names should not be there," he said.
The legislator from Dera Baba Nanak said this function was not of the BJP or the Akali Dal and claimed that the Badals had never visited the area.
Randhawa pasted black tape on his name and on that of the chief minister, state minister Vijay Inder Singla and Gurdaspur MP Sunil Jakhar.
"If names of Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal will be there, then my name should not be on the foundation stone," he said.
"This is not a question of credit (for the opening of Kartarpur corridor). Nobody's name should have been there. The Guru Ka Marg being dedicated by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu should have been mentioned instead," he said.
The screen, on which the project was inaugurated by pressing a button later, carried the names of Naidu, Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore, the chief minister and Union Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari.
Addressing the gathering, Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal thanked the Narendra Modi-led government for its approval to build the Kartarpur corridor.
She also gave credit to Parkash Singh Badal, Akali stalwart Gurcharan Singh Tohra and Akali leader Gurdeep Singh Wadala for the project, saying they had fought hard for this corridor.
In her address, she mentioned a Delhi court's verdict awarding death penalty to a convict for killing two men in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the first capital punishment in the case.
"A few days back, a court in Delhi gave an order in the case, giving a ray of hope for the victim's families. We now hope that the big crocodiles who were involved in the genocide would also be brought to justice," said Harsimrat.
A section of the crowd started hooting during her speech. However, she continued and praised the BJP government for setting up a SIT for the riot cases, abolishing GST on 'langar' and rehabilitating the Sikhs who came from war-torn nations like Afghanistan.
Later, when Sunil Jakhar, who is also the Punjab Congress president, was making his speech and made a reference to Harsimrat Kaur's crocodile remark, Akali workers led by former state minister Bikram Singh Majithia shouted slogans and interrupted his speech.
"I want to say that in coming days if crocodiles will be spotted they will be spotted either in Beas river or Harike Wetland.
"Those crocodiles who pushed an entire generation of Punjab into drugs, those crocodiles who..," said Jakhar and as soon as he pointed fingers at the Akalis, mentioning the 2015 sacrilege incidents, it evoked sharp reactions from opposition leaders who were sitting in front of the dais.
While Harsimrat Kaur Badal was sitting on the dais, her brother Bikram Singh Majithia led a group of Akalis and raised slogans against Sunil Jakhar and interrupted his speech.
They raised slogans like "'84 ke katil murdabad".
Bikram Singh Majithia later told reporters that Randhawa and the Congress could not digest the fact despite ruling for the most part of a 70-year period, they did nothing for the Kartarpur corridor and it was expected that Randhawa could not tolerate seeing Badals' names on the stone.
Navjot Singh Siddhu did not attend the foundation stone laying event and on being asked by reporters the reason for staying away, he said, "There are some things which are away from the politics. I was never into credit war, not today and will not be in the future as well."
Meanwhile, some Sikh preachers of the 'Sant Samaj' boycotted the programme as they protested against the presence of SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and other Akali leaders there.
They accused the previous Akali led regime of not acting against those who were involved in incidents of sacrilege in 2015.
(With inputs from agencies.)