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Punjab ministers lash out at SAD and AAP for using hooch tragedy to play with People's sentiments

PUNJAB NEW EXPRESS | August 06, 2020 07:07 PM

CHANDIGARH: A group of Punjab ministers on Thursday hit out at the Akalis and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for shamelessly using the hooch tragedy to play with the sentiments of the people with an eye on the Assembly elections.

The opposition was so busy playing to the gallery that even the sufferings of the victims and their families seemed not to have affected them, said the ministers, in a joint statement issued here.

The statement was issued by cabinet ministers, Sukh Sarkaria, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, Sunder Sham Arora and Bharat Bhushan.

Ridiculing the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal’s announcement that the party would approach the Governor to seek the Congress government’s dismissal, the ministers said the game-plan of the party had been completely exposed. It was clear that, following the pattern of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the Akalis, acting on the directives of their political masters – the Bharatiya Janata Party – were trying to destabilise Punjab’s duly elected government.

But the cheap machinations of the Akalis will not succeed, and they would end up humiliating themselves even more in the eyes of the people of Punjab than they had been doing over the past three and a half years, said the ministers. If governments could be dismissed for crimes committed by gangsters and criminal mafias, the SAD-BJP government of the past would have been dismissed in the first year of their rule, they said, citing the mafia raj that prevailed across the state under their regime.

Pointing to the various hooch tragedies that had taken place under the SAD rule, and were taking place in many states even now under BJP-ruled governments, the ministers dared Sukhbir to come out with details of the action taken in any of those. In contrast, the Punjab Police, on strict directives of Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, had already taken 50 people in its net, including many of the kingpins of the mafia responsible for the deaths of more than 100 people in the latest tragedy, they pointed out.

The ministers also ridiculed the Akalis for making baseless accusations of complicity of some elected Congress leaders in the liquor mafia. “Wait for the inquiry to be over. The Chief Minister has already made it clear that no one involved in the tragedy would be spared”, said the ministers adding that if this government had gone by mere hearsay and wild allegations, without any investigations (which incidentally are underway), both Sukhbir and his brother-in-law, Bikram Majithia, would have been behind bars by now.

Reacting to Sukhbir’s demand for the resignation of the Chief Minister, the ministers asked the SAD president how many times he had stepped down after the numerous deaths due to illicit liquor, drugs, police atrocities etc during the Badal rule. In fact, the Captain Amarinder government was still trying to clean up the mess left behind by the SAD-BJP in every area, they added.

The ministers said that unlike the Akalis and the BJP, which had been notorious for covering up major crimes, and in fact patronising mafias through their 10-year tenure, Captain Amarinder had not just given the police a free hand to investigate the case but had put on them the onus of bringing the guilty to book at the earliest.

Top excise department and police officials had been suspended and were under the scanner for their role in the case, said the ministers, challenging Sukhbir to tell the people how many times their government had dared take such strict action in any criminal case. All political and other links of the accused in this case were being probed thoroughly – a far cry from the SAD-BJP rule when criminals made hay under the benign eye of their leadership, the ministers further said. In fact, Captain Amarinder himself had described the deaths on the hooch tragedy sheer murder – a description which Sukhbir had conveniently chosen to ape, they added.

Even AAP had no leg to stand on despite being the main opposition party in the state, the ministers said, pointing to the gross mismanagement in Delhi, where the party is in power. If the Centre had to step in to help the Arvind Kejriwal government manage the Covid pandemic, one can only imagine what the usual level of governance in Delhi must be, they quipped. They termed as ludicrous the fact that the AAP protest against the hooch tragedy was led by a man notorious for his alcoholism.

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