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Bridge fails to ease political tensions in Punjab

August 20, 2003 23:04 IST

At least 60 people, including a BJP MLA and a Superintendent of Police, were injured on Wednesday afternoon when police used force to prevent Union Minister of State for External Affairs Vinod Khanna and his supporters from inaugurating a bridge in his constituency in Punjab.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party combine are at loggerheads over inauguration of a bridge over River Beas in Gurdaspur, which, Singh said, was constructed by his government.

"The Centre is trying to encroach upon the rights of the state," he told reporters in Patiala adding he would inaugurate the bridge on Thursday. He warned Khanna to keep away from the inauguration.

Defying restrictions imposed by the Punjab government, SAD-BJP workers on Wednesday marched towards the bridge prompting police to swing batons, lob teargas shells and fire in the air to bring the situation under control, sources said.

BJP MLA Tikshan Sud, SP (Headquarters) R K Jaiswal, former Punjab minister Mohan Lal were among 60 people, mostly SAD-BJP activists, injured in pitched battles between police and the mob.

Police detained 25 people, including the BJP MLA, in connection with violence.

Addressing SAD-BJP workers, Khanna claimed he had initiated construction of the bridge. The film star-turned-politician said he had persuaded NABARD to advance a loan to the then Parkash Singh Badal government for the project.

Khanna agreed the bridge was the property of the Punjab government and should be inaugurated by the chief minister but insisted it was the duty of the state government to invite him for the function as he represents Gurdaspur constituency and in view of his contribution to the construction of the bridge.

More reports from Punjab

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