People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXVII

No. 49

November 07, 2003

 BADAL IMPRISONED

 

Akali Politics In Quagmire

 

Harkishan Singh Surjeet

 

THE recent imprisonment of former Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal, a Rajya Sabha member, has brought the Akali politics to a critical pass. Badal and his son were sent to judicial custody in Patiala Jail in Punjab on December 1, after a Ropar court rejected their application for interim bail.

 

Badal’s imprisonment was ordered by Ropar’s additional sessions and district judge in a case filed by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau, according to which the Badals had amassed assets worth Rs 78.39 crore, disproportionate to their known sources of income. He will remain in jail till December 13 while their regular bail plea was to come up for hearing on December 3 but was postponed. Badal’s wife, Smt Surinder Kaur, did not appear before the court on medical grounds and has been summoned to appear on December 13. She too is said to be holding property worth crores of rupees in her name. Nay, many more people are likely to suffer the same fate --- as Badal’s accomplishes or as the beneficiaries of his largesse.

 

BJP’S PRETENSES ARE BITING DUST

 

BADAL’S imprisonment could not have come at a worse time for the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) that is ruling at the centre and has proved that it is neither national nor democratic but simply an alliance of those hankering for power. The former Punjab chief minister, whose party, the Shiromani Aali Dal (SAD), is a partner in the NDA, was sent to judicial custody just one day before the winter session of parliament was to open on December 2. As it is, this session is likely to be gripped with several corruption cases. These include the most recent episode involving Dilip Singh Judev, a union minister who has since been divested of responsibility. And that was preceded by the CVC allegation that six of the union ministers had been pressurising the chiefs of public sector undertakings under them for undue favours. Now, Badal’s imprisonment has added one more feather to the NDA’s cap that has already been soiled by several cases of corruption.

 

The ongoing session of parliament thus appears set to turn stormy. What the NDA and the BJP leading it will do to face the volley of charges coming from the opposition, only time will tell. Given their past record, what appears most likely is that the BJP and NDA leaders would again resort shamelessly to lame duck justifications, as they have been doing so far.

 

One thing is already amply clear. No party so much shouted of “principles” from rooftops as the BJP did; in fact, it succeeded in duping many people by this talk. Yet, no party has so shamelessly been shielding the corrupt as the BJP has done so far, for the sake of remaining in power. It is in this sense that the BJP is really “a party with a difference.” No wonder, then, that its pretences of being a principled party and its claims of providing a clean government are biting dust today.  

 

The imprisonment of the former Punjab chief minister and his son thus indicates, once again, as to what type of self-seekers the NDA is made up of.

 

TIP OF THE ICEBERG

 

REGARDING the Badal family itself, a press note issued by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) says:

 

“As per the investigations conducted by the Vigilance Bureau so far, it has been found that the Badal family, headed by the former chief minister Mr Prakash Singh Badal, has accumulated assets hugely disproportionate to their known sources of income. The disproportionate assets, pertaining only to the five years of the SAD-BJP government, alone amount to Rs 78,39,52,503.00. This is the amount for which the present challan has been presented against the accused.”

 

But then one will do well to take note of the words “the present challan,” showing that this Rs 78.39 crore case is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. The said press note of the Punjab VB itself says the following about the total assets held by the Badal family:

 

“The estimated total present market value of the assets (both Indian and foreign) included in the investigations conducted thus far and those still under investigation by the Vigilance Bureau is Rs 4326 crore. This includes inland assets (included in this investigation) worth Rs 501 crore and indicated overseas properties valued at US $850 million or Rs 3825 crore.”

 

And to think of it, all this filthy lucre was amassed at the cost of Punjab people’s welfare!

 

The said press note concludes by informing that “Investigation regarding foreign properties is still continuing and a supplementary report would be submitted to the court later on after the completion of investigations.”

 

GROSS MISUSE OF POWER

 

ABOUT the loud noise made and being made by Badal and his cohorts that the family is being falsely implicated by the present chief minister Captain Amrinder Singh who is bent on taking revenge, the fact is there has been no buyer of the argument. The reason is obvious; nobody is prepared to believe that Badal did not commit any impropriety while in power. The detailed press note of the VB even gives the details of these properties that were acquired between April 1, 1997 and March 31, 2002. These include resorts and farmhouses, palatial bungalows, hotels and restaurants, huge shares in factories, lorries and other kinds of vehicles, and many other things, apart from liquid cash. The list is appalling.

 

This gross misuse of power by the former chief minister for the sake of amassing wealth has for months been a subject of discussion in all the households, restaurants, etc, in the state. For example, it is being said about Badal’s palatial bungalow in Chandigarh that it has, among other things, a swimming pool on its roof, besides the one in the lawn outside. Another public hearsay is that the bungalow is fitted with as many as 29 air conditioners, and it is said that large amounts of electricity were being illegally consumed by these ACs and other gadgets while the farmers of Punjab were not getting adequate amount of power for agricultural purposes. Another piece of public talk is that when Badal’s daughter, married in a wealthy family, pressed him for a similar bungalow, he acquired another big plot for the purpose and fulfilled her dear daughter’s wish. One is only reminded here of the celebrated words of French novelist Balzac that “Behind every fortune there is a crime.”

 

One may well recall here that the BJP has up till now not been able to clear the charge leveled by Amrinder Singh that its former Himachal Pradesh chief minister, Prem Kumar Dhumal, had made big investments and acquired property in Punjab. This charge was one of the reasons for the BJP’s defeat in Himachal Pradesh and, despite the threat of suing Amrinder Singh for defamation, Dhumal is yet to clear his name in that episode. Nor is Badal likely to be able to clear his name.

 

Then there also remains the fact that the imprisonment of Badal and his son comes as a sequel to the ignominy already suffered by several members of the erstwhile SAD-BJP cabinet led by Badal. As The Indian Express (December 20) says, “The arrest marks the culmination of a protracted battle between Amrinder and former CM Badal, which has already seen nine former Akali ministers being put behind bars in various corruption cases.” Evidently, Badal was not the only man naked in the bathroom.

 

Earlier, a Badal crony was booked for having extracted, during Badal’s tenure, a lot of money as bribe from those aspiring for Punjab Public Service Commission posts. The press note issued by the Punjab VB says the Badal family was “the basis on which Ravi Sidhu like persons looted the people of Punjab and, leaving aside the competent candidates, received heavy bribes for making recruitment of incompetent persons, and still Prakash Singh Badal recommended his elevation to the membership of UPSC (Union Public Service Commission), and thus he misused his office and power for the personal use and also deployed various officials/officers on his personal works.”

 

AKALI CAMPAIGN BADLY MISFIRES

 

THUS, for the sake of argument, even if we accept Badal’s allegation that Captain Amrinder Singh is only avenging the humiliation he felt while he was still in the Akali Dal, the fact of Badal amassing huge properties while in power is undoubted. In fact, if only the VB is able to press its investigations, it seems more than likely that the Badal family will get cooked. 

 

It is therefore not surprising that the Akali Dal campaign to generate sympathy for the Badal family among the Punjab people and to bring them to the streets has badly misfired. Apart from the erstwhile SAD-BJP government’s misrule, the issue of corruption was also an election issue during the last polls to the state assembly. Then the humiliating defeat the SAD-BJP combine suffered at the hustings was an unmistakable indication of how the people of Punjab viewed the issue of the ministers’ involvement in corruption. It is therefore futile to expect that the people may now be mobilised in defence of the corrupt. 

 

Nay, what to talk of the common people of the state, even Akali leaders at various levels are finding it difficult to come out in Badal’s defence. True, December 1 saw some high drama, including that staged by the former SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur, but popular response was lacking. As The Indian Express reports, “the promised fireworks never materialised as the Akali leaders who had fought or evaded police and sneaked on trains and tractors to reach the Ropar court melted into the winter air after the additional sessions and district judge S K Goyal gave his order.”

 

The paper then said about the post-facto scene, “Compared to the drama, the court premises at Ropar are almost an anti-climax, with silence prevailing in the corridors and advocates lazing outside. Even the shops, guesthouses and restaurants in Ropar, either closed or taken over by police, wear a deserted look.” As for the appeal to the people made by Gurcharan Singh Tohra, whom Badal recently placated by giving him back the post of SGPC chief, the paper says, “back on the road, his appeal seems unnecessary. The crowd of before is nowhere to be seen. At the Akali Dal office, a lone typist tells us that he has sent us a press note. Can we please publish it?”

 

So this is the pass to which the Badal, Tohra and company have brought the Akali Dal. Under their leadership, the party now stands alienated from all its glorious traditions of the freedom struggle years and even later. We may recall that the Akalis played a notable role during the struggle for independence; their eminently democratic struggle for liberating the gurudwaras from the clutches of the corrupt and pro-British mahants still remains a golden chapter in the history of Punjab and the country. But then they not only aligned with the majority communal forces and not only began to milk the people with both hands but even degraded themselves to the level that the whole world witnessed their sordid dramas in glorification of the anti-national terrorists as the fighters for the panth. It was therefore only logical that they have lost all public sympathy and have become the butt of ridicule. This may serve as a good lesson for all those in public life.