Chandigarh, May 17: Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, particularly its first family the Badals, finding itself in the line of fire following controversies, has taken refuge in religion. At least, that’s what opposition leaders are saying. Congress Deputy Leader in the Lok Sabha Amarinder Singh says that Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his party, having completely failed on the economic and law and order fronts, have fallen back on the ‘Panthic (Sikh religious) agenda’. Amarinder’s reference was to the ‘Dharmik Darshan Yatra’ launched on May 6 by the Punjab government and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which is controlled by the Akali Dal. The ‘yatra’ has certainly been able to shift the focus away from recent controversies towards religious matters. “The choice is between the economic progress and development on one side and the Panthic agenda on the other. The Badals are known for raking up religion when things go against them,” said Amarinder, a former chief minister of Punjab.
The biggest controversy to hit Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s government was the recent death of a teeged Dalit girl near Moga town. She was molested by the bus staff and pushed out of a speeding bus when she resisted. The girl died and her mother, who was also thrown out of the bus, was seriously injured. The bus in question, and its staff, belonged to Orbit Aviation transport company which is owned by Sukhbir Singh Badal, Punjab’s powerful deputy chief minister. The incident gave opposition parties and others an opportunity to gun for the Badal government and the Akali Dal leaders. “I challenge Badal to list one single achievement he can claim credit for. Be it wheat procurement, he has failed. Be it law and order, he has failed. Be it economy, he has failed. Be it industry, he has failed. Be it agriculture, he has failed,” Amarinder said while listing the failures of the chief minister and his government. Congress leaders like Pratap Singh Bajwa and Sukhpal Singh Khaira have questioned how the businesses owned by the Badal family have thrived and prospered by leaps and bounds while the state is in a debt trap.
The Badal family’s business interests, mostly owned by Sukhbir Badal and his union minister wife Harsimrat Badal, are in transport, aviation, hotels and hospitality, agriculture, infrastructure, housing and media. “The Moga incident was a shocking example of how law and order situation has crumbled. Your (Badals’) moral weakness flows from the fact that your family business and vested interests domite your politics and governce, and are in clash with each other,” Bajwa pointed out.
Opposition leaders also question Sukhbir Badal on his oft repeated claims of Punjab being a power surplus state and his dream of exporting power to neighbouring Pakistan. They point out that all areas in Punjab suffer power cuts running into eight hours and more daily.
Undeterred by the criticism, the Badals have gone ahead with the religious programme on a Rs.2.25-crore vehicle specially designed by car designer ‘DC’ (Dilip Chhabria), carrying the relics of three Sikh gurus all across Punjab for people to have a closer ‘darshan’ and pay obeisance to. “It is providing an opportunity to the people to have a glimpse of the holy relics of Guru Sahib and also propagating Sikh ethos of fighting against tyranny, oppression and injustice,” Chief Minister Badal said. His son, Sukhbir Badal, who is the Akali Dal president, went a step further.
“The yatra would be taken to different states with help of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and other organisations. The Dharmik Darshan Yatra would visit parts of Rajasthan, Delhi, Harya and Uttar Pradesh,” Sukhbir Badal said. Even Akal Takht (highest temporal seat of Sikh religion) Jathedar (chief) Gurbachan Singh said: “This sacred yatra which has given a rare opportunity to Sangat (people/devotees) to have a glimpse of the holy relics of Sikh Gurus for the first time.” Close aides of the Badals say that the yatra was planned months in advance and the opposition charge was baseless. The relics of the Sikh gurus, including their clothes and weapons, are being taken around Punjab. Relics of sixth guru Hargobind Singh, ninth guru Tegh Bahadur, and tenth guru Gobind Singh are being carried. The tour will culmite at Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib in Andpur Sahib town on May 20. The holy relics of tenth Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh, include three swords, a set of hair with comb, one turban, one chola (robe), one whip, one bunch of five arrows, one ‘Siri Sahib’ (small three inch kirpan), one spear with wood, one small plain steel spear, one big sword and one sword with the word ‘Sat Sri Akal Guru Teg Bahadur’ the 1713 Samvat (1656) inscribed on the blade. Of particular interest to the devotees and scholars is one manuscript written in Guru Gobind Singhi’s own hand. (IANS)