Manpreet becomes persona non grata in Punjab govt

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Old 10-Oct-2010
Manpreet becomes persona non grata in Punjab govt

Chandigarh October 10:

There is a storm in Punjab politics. It is not caused by any collision between the traditional rivals — Captain Amarinder Singh and Chief Minister Parkash Badal’s family. The storm has come in the form of a virtual revolt by Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal against his own Government over the debt waiver.

Manpreet is a nephew of Chief Minister Badal and used to be his confidant. The relationship began to change when Chief Minister Badal decided to promote his son Sukhbir Singh Badal, who was first made the president of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), and later was elevated to the post of Deputy Chief Minister.

It is said that Manpreet Singh Badal and Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon, also Food and Civil Supplies Minister, were opposed to the move of ascending Deputy Chief Minister Badal to the top slot. The central BJP leadership had given the no objection certificate to Sukhbir, but the last moment hurdles came from the extended Badal family.

The current bout of unrest in the SAD seems to be ludicrous. Manpreet Singh Badal held a media conference on Thursday at his residence, airing his views on the Central Government’s debt waiver offer of `35,000 crore against `70,000 crore, subject to certain tax reforms including subsidy reduction, and checking the transport loss by increasing fare.

Manpreet said the Government should grab the opportunity, but his party leadership refused though differently. First, Chief Minister Badal issued a statement saying that there was nothing wrong in the proposal of Manpreet, which culminated in another statement, saying that there was no official communication from the Centre in this regard and nobody would be allowed to break the party discipline.

Since Thursday, Manpreet Singh Badal has been incommunicado. After addressing the Press conference, he has been refusing calls from the mediapersons on the record. Those close to him say that he has tremendous respect for Chief Minister Badal and hence he does not want to further open his mouth and discuss in this regard.

Known for his different and own unbiased stand — whether different or similar, against the party consensus or in favour — Manpreet put it forth without any pressure or biases. As nothing is hidden behind the curtains in political circles, the differences came forth when Manpreet was not included in the two-member Resource Mobilisation Committee, despite holding the important portfolio of Finance Ministry. Manpreet was upset at the way his suggestions on fiscal reforms have been treated by his Cabinet colleagues.

What irked Manpreet was that the committee recommended the same measures that he himself had suggested on earlier occasions and just required the approval of the top-brass of the two ruling partners — the SAD and the BJP, before getting them finally implemented. This committee had recommended giving only partial subsidy to agriculture consumers, increasing value added tax (VAT) slabs, imposing abiana and tax on DTH service among other things to generate an additional `1,930 crore.

Even at that time, Manpreet handled the situation by saying that it’s not important whose suggestion was implemented, as long as it helped us to generate more resources. Many a times, the differences of opinion had emerged between the two. Manpreet has always been different.

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