SAD should have handled manpreet issue carefully

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Old 11-Oct-2010
SAD should have handled manpreet issue carefully

Chandigarh October 11:

The crisis managers of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) have acted in a sheer haste in handling the situation arising out of Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal’s views on the Central Government’s debt waiver proposal, which were allegedly at odds with the State Government’s so-called stated stand on the vexed issue.

Manpreet Singh on Thursday advocated for the Central Government’s proposal to accept `35,000 crore debt waiver against the existing figure of `70,000 crore along with certain fiscal reforms to further consolidate the State’s fiscal condition. It was sadly coincided with Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal sustaining injuries when he slipped from the stairs of his official residence and had to be admitted to the city PGIMER hospital.

As an astute politician, Chief Minister Badal issued a statement from the hospital bed, almost approving the proposal of Manpreet, saying that there was nothing objectionable in his views. It is said that this angered a section of SAD leaders and strategists close to SAD president and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.

As a result, a few hours later in the night he issued another statement in which he almost denounced Manpreet Singh and virtually warned him against stepping further, else disciplinary action would be initiated, which could be construed as his possible drop from the Cabinet. This was, perhaps, done at the behest of SAD president Sukhbir Singh, cousin of Manpreet. He even formed a disciplinary committee under the chairmanship of SS Dhindsa to maintain discipline in the party.

What would have been an ideal response to Manpreet’s stand on the Centre’s land waiver proposal had come from Chief Minister Badal. Knowing fully well Punjab’s poor financial position, `35,000 crore would have been a big boost. The Political Affairs Committee (PAC) of SAD took a contrary view, saying that accompanying conditions like increasing bus fare to check the huge loss of Transport Department and reviewing subsidy policies would alienate the common public from the party.

Thus much-hyped fear of alienation does not hold much significance, as the Assembly election is due in early 2012. An increase in bus fare would not have made much of a difference. The State’s bus services are in bad shape. It is incurring over `200 crore losses every year, which is a major hurdle in overhauling the transport system in the State. Similarly, there is no rationale in not having the provision of tax on residential properties in municipal areas. Only commercial properties are taxed, which is not a fair situation.

Why Manpreet has stirred a hornet’s nest in the SAD? He is considered to be the most articulate and people friendly face of the party after Chief Minister Badal. He was also liked by Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh. Sources said they were having an excellent rapport. The relationship is learnt to have gone sour when Sukhbir began eyeing the top slot along with the post of the party president.

Chief Minister Badal has to take a final call as to who would be his successor? Available indications explicitly suggest that he would certainly opt for Sukhbir Singh Badal, his son, who is also credited with strengthening and expanding the party’s support base. His supporters say that SAD and BJP won four and one Lok Sabha seats respectively in the 2009 election, all because of the aggressive campaigning by Sukhbir Singh Badal in the State.

Against this backdrop, there was hardly any need to press the panic button in the SAD rank and file so much so that the district unit party chiefs were brought in here on Saturday to prove that they have full faith in party president and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir. They even sought action against whosoever indulges in indiscipline, but could not dare take the name of Manpreet Singh Badal.

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