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Dakha, October 15:

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday lambasted Akali leaders Harsimrat Badal and Sukhbir Badal for deliberately putting obstacles in the way of coordination between the state government and SGPC for joint celebration of the 550th birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji.

Talking to mediapersons while campaigning for Congress candidate Captain Sandeep Sandhu in the upcoming byelection, the Chief Minister said that three of his cabinet ministers had met the SGPC representatives this morning and had amicable discussion on the issue. Also, as advised by the Jathedar, two representatives had been nominated by the Punjab Congress to discuss the matter with the Akal Takht and SAD and the meetings so far had gone off smoothly, he said.

However, Sukhbir and Harsimrat were trying to scuttle an amicable settlement of the issue at every step for their political gains, said Captain Amarinder, adding that the Akalis had always exploited religion for vested interests. “What kind of Akalis are these? Definitely not the Taksali Akalis of the founding party,” said the Chief Minister, dubbing the Badal couple as a total fraud. Only fraud Akalis can play politics over the first Sikh Guru, who was revered the world over, he added.

The Chief Minister rejected the Akali claims that it was the SGPC job to conduct the Prakash Purb celebrations, pointing out that their jurisdiction lay only within the holy sanctorum sanctum. Outside the precincts, it was the government’s prerogative, which precedent also endorsed, he added.

Describing SAD as an unprincipled party, he pointed to their double standards on their ties with BJP, against which they were fighting tooth and nail in Haryana while seeking votes for its candidates in Punjab. This kind of petty politics had alienated them from the people and reduced the Akalis to a non-entity, he said, adding that given the current scenario, he did not see SAD and BJP being on one plank in the 2022 Assembly elections in Punjab.

The Chief Minister also lashed out at the Akalis for their criticism of his government over `failed promises’, pointing out that all promises were being fulfilled, in stages, and the remaining would also be implemented as the fiscal situation of the state improves. Even in his previous term he had ensured the fulfilment of all promises, he pointed out.

The Chief Minister, who was “101% confident of the Congress sweeping all the four bypolls in the state”, was on a roadshow here to campaign in favour of party candidate Captain Sandeep Sandhu, whom he described as a committed worker with the welfare of the people close to his heart. The mood was in favour of the Congress as the people want development, which his government was delivering to them, he added.

Interacting with journalists during the roadshow, Captain Amarinder also lashed out at Pakistan over the imposition of $20 fee on Indian pilgrims visiting Kartarpur Gurdwara via the Corridor, saying it was tantamount to putting a ticket on visiting the gurdwara. “How will the poor pilgrims pay this amount,” he asked, pointing out that all the devotees would be placing `chadawa’, in any case, at the gurdwara of their own volition. The Sikh religion propounds `khulle darshan’ – an ideology that Pakistan seemed bent on violating, he said.

To a question on the final programme with regard to the Kartarpur Corridor inauguration, the Chief Minister said that was being worked out with Islamabad by the Government of India. His government, said Captain Amarinder, was working closely with the Centre to ensure that all infrastructural and other works for the historic event are completed well in time. He hoped that Pakistan too would meet its promised deadline to make the 550th Prakash Purb truly historic for the Sikh community.

The Chief Minister agreed that Pakistan was making all-out efforts to revive terrorism in Punjab, by pushing in weapons and militants, especially after the developments in Kashmir, but asserted that his government was fully prepared to tackle the threat. The security forces were fully alert and geared to meet any eventuality, and the state was not facing any law and order issue, he said in response to a question. In fact, Punjab’s law and order situation today was better than ever before, he asserted. Both the central and state security forces were working together to neutralize the threat and every single infiltrator from across the border into Punjab had been caught, said Captain Amarinder.

Captain Amarinder made it clear that he would not be visiting Pakistan but would merely go through the special corridor to visit Kartarpur Gurdwara Sahib, with which his family had close historical ties. He was not in favour of talks with Islamabad till they stopped cross-border militancy and killing of Indian soldiers, he added.

On Arvind Kejriwal’s statements blaming Punjab and Haryana for the high level of pollutions in Delhi, Captain Amarinder said though the stubble being burnt in Pakistan and the northern states was carrying pollutants to the national capital due to the westerly winds, it was only a small part of the problem. The bigger issue was that Delhi had more pollution of its own than Haryana and Punjab put together, he said, accusing Kejriwal of trying to divert blame to the other states to hide his own failures.

Notwithstanding this, however, his government was taking all possible steps to ensure that the few misguided farmers who are still burning paddy straw in Punjab also put an end to the damaging practice, said the Chief Minister. Farmers using the machines being distributed by his government for paddy waste management had reported huge success, and also improvement in the soil, he said, adding that they were being encouraged to create awareness among their peers.

Observing that Guru Nanak had advocated clean and free air for all, Captain Amarinder exhorted the people to follow the first Guru’s ideology in letter and principle. His government was, at the same time, ensuring enforcement of the ban on stubble burning, he added.

Enthusiastic crowds, waving Congress flags, greeted the Chief Minister’s convoy across Dakha as the roadshow went through the crowded bazaars and areas of Allwal, Sidhwan Bet, Madarpura, Gorsian Makhan, Talwandi Kalan and Mullanpur city. He was accompanied by AICC General Secretary, Asha Kumari, Cabinet Ministers, Sikh Sarkaria and Bharat Bhushan Ashu, and MP, Ravneet Bittu, along with several MLAs and party leaders from the area.

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