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|November 16, 2002||
The Rediff Interview/Parkash Singh Badal
With the Shiromani Akali Dal's victory in this week's Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee election, former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has bounced back in state politics. Badal was humiliated in February's assembly election when the Congress vanquished his party. But now he seems to be on the ascendant once again.
"Badal owes his comeback to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh's actions," says Gurcharan Singh Tohra, Badal's adversary in Akali politics.
In an exclusive interview with Chief Correspondent Onkar Singh, Badal criticised Amarinder Singh "as misguided that he could weaken the Akali Dal by acting tough".
How do you view your re-emergence in state politics having lost the assembly election?
I am obviously pleased with our party's performance in the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee election. Our nominee, Jathedar Kirpal Singh Badungar, has been re-elected president of the SGPC. We have swept the poll.
The Shiromani Akali Dal lost the assembly election because Gurcharan Singh Tohra, former president of the SGPC, and Simranjit Singh Mann's Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) put up their candidates during the election. This led to a division of Akali votes. We lost some seats by very narrow margins.
Mr Tohra has alleged that Chief Minister Amarinder Singh helped you in winning the SGPC election.
Nothing can be farther from the truth. We know how Captain Singh went out of his way to help Tohra in the SGPC election.
Why have you demanded the chief minister's resignation?
He must resign because he interfered in Sikh religious affairs.
What made Captain Singh 'interfere' in the SGPC election?
It is well known that Captain Singh could not have become chief minister if Tohra and Mann had not put up candidates against the Shiromani Akali Dal in the assembly election. The captain was trying to return that favour. Besides, someone must have told him that if he broke up the Akali Dal he would go down in Sikh history. But he failed miserably.
How do you assess the actions taken by the state government in the weeks preceding the SGPC election?
Captain Amarinder Singh proved he is worse than the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. The kind of terror he unleashed on SGPC members and their families in the weeks preceding the SGPC election was unheard of. It is surprising that a man like Tohra needed Congress help to contest the SGPC election. He should learn a lesson that it does not pay to take Congress help to contest religious body elections.
Mr Mann says Mr Badungar's election as SGPC president is a victory for Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and a defeat for Sonia Gandhi.
His allegation is totally wrong. If Mann has any proof that any BJP leader was involved in campaigning for our candidates in the SGPC poll he should give it to us. It is a victory for the Sikh Panth, not the prime minister.
Mr Tohra calls his party Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal...
I would suggest Tohra rename his party Akali Dal (Congress) or (Amarinder).
The state government appointed observers to monitor the SGPC election.
Where was the need to appoint observers for elections to a religious body? We have been holding elections every year. Until now we never felt the need to have an observer because nobody ever complained about the manner in which the elections were conducted. We agreed to an observer so that the election could be completed without hindrance.
Why did you agree to an observer?
Because I felt they had a game plan that somehow the election should be sabotaged and put off indefinitely.
What is your next plan of action?
We have won the SGPC election. This will have a great impact on state politics in the days to come. I must add here that Captain Singh should stop sending the police to the Golden Temple complex.
It is strange he should have done so when he twice resigned on the same ground. In 1984 he resigned as an MP and from the Congress party in protest against Operation Blue Star. He resigned from the Surjeet Singh Barnala government when he [then chief minister Barnala] sent the police into the Golden Temple in 1986.
Do you think your party's victory in the SGPC election has sent Captain Singh a message?
I think his level of intoxication must have come down. He was misguided that he could weaken the Akali Dal by acting tough. Now he has seen the consequences of being tough with the Akali Dal.
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