Badals’ double take on union government (Punjab Newsletter)
By Jaideep Sarin
For Punjab’s ruling Badal family, bashing the UPA government at the centre is a full-time occupation. For anything that is not right in Punjab, the singular explanation extended by the leaders of the ruling family is to go on the offensive and blame the central government for all the state’s ills.
Be it Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, his son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal president, or his daughter-in-law and Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the central government is always in their crosshairs.
However, Badal senior sang a different tune last week when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh came to Mullanpur near Chandigarh to lay the foundation stone of a Rs.450-crore cancer hospital and research centre being set up by the Tata Group.
Badal, 86, showered praise on Manmohan Singh during his speech at the function, even though the prime minister sat virtually expressionless. The chief minister used words like “son of the soil”, “gratitude”, “taking personal interest”, “personal intervention”, “expeditiously clearing the project”, “giving special projects to Punjab” – all for the prime minister – to express his feelings.
The cancer hospital project is close to Badal’s heart as the deadly disease has affected a major area of southwest Punjab to which Badal belongs.
Badal’s remarks on the prime minister were in stark comparison to his public posture on the “step-motherly” treatment that the United Progressive Alliance government gives to Punjab. Badal, who has been in power since 2007, has over the years been unsparing in his stance on the central government.
While Badal was showering praise on the prime minister last week, just two days later, daughter-in-law Harsimrat Badal was blaming the same central government for being unfair to Punjab.
Charging the UPA government for “causing undue delay in setting up new projects in Punjab and laying down stringent conditions to deprive Punjab of central grants”, Harsimrat Badal told a gathering in Bathinda district: “This has vindicated our stand that the Congress has always adopted an anti-Punjab stance. There is an unending list of such instances which depicted the Congress party’s step-motherly treatment meted out to the state.”
She pointed out that the civil works of the Bathinda airport were complete but the centre was not giving the permission to operate flights.
Even Sukhbir Badal spares no opportunity to blame the centre for the ills in Punjab.
But Punjab Congress leaders hardly agree with the Badals. They say that a majority of the recently-launched social welfare projects in the state are from centrally-funded schemes which the Badal government has been trying to pass off as its own.
With parliamentary elections around the corner, the Akalis and the Congress are likely to get even more critical of each other. Amid all this, the common man in Punjab stands to gain nothing. The Aam Aadmi needs a savior for sure.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
–Indo-Asian News Service