The issue of "not inviting" Punjab government to the foundation stone laying event of a cancer hospital in Sangrur snowballed into a controversy with Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal accusing the Centre of "grave and avoidable political impropriety involved in keeping Punjab in the dark".
In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday, the chief minister expressed his strong "surprise, dismay and displeasure" over the alleged lack of decorum and courtesy involved in the Centre's decision.
Badal urged the prime minister to "impress upon his colleagues not to allow politics to take precedence over issues of development and governmental duties or to over-ride basic governmental courtesies."
Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad will on Thursday lay the foundation of the super-speciality hospital, a satellite centre of post-graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research-Chandigarh, at Ghabdan village of Sangrur.
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi and party MP Vijay Inder Singla will attend the function.
Apart from Badal, a number of Shiromani Akali Dal leaders criticised the Centre for allegedly keeping the state government at bay from the Sangrur function.
When contacted, PGIMER spokesperson, however, said the PGI had sent an invite to a number of dignitaries including Chief Minister Badal.
Expressing surprise over the move by the Centre, Badal raised a fundamental issue of the spirit of "co-operative federalism" in the working together of the Union and the state governments for the development and prosperity of the states and the country.
This spirit, he said, had been dealt a severe blow by this needless act of "cheap political gimmickry".
"The Centre and the states must work hand-in-hand in an atmosphere of complete constructive cooperation, adding to and speeding up the overall developmental thrust.
"As a matter of fact, we have always rolled out a red carpet for the honourable members of the Union government and other constitutional dignitaries from the Centre," said Badal.
The chief minister said he was happy that the foundation stone of this prestigious project is being laid in Sangrur, but "ignoring the state government completely was intolerable as it involved not just issues of protocol but also of great political impropriety", said Badal.
Objecting to the manner and motive behind the move, Badal said that "this smacked of a low-level petty politicking gimmick, something that did not behove the government of a free democratic country like India."
The action lacked courtesy and there was a definite loss of grace and dignity on the part of some people at the Centre who thought they were being too smart in politicising an issue of sensitive significance to the people of the state, he said.
The chief minister wrote to the prime minister that he had been surprised by the "deliberate mischievous move of not letting the state government know about the function".
"This is not how mature governments and political parties function in a responsible democracy," said Badal.
"No one in the state government had been informed about the Centre's (Sangrur) programme at the level of the Union Ministry of Health to lay the foundation stone of the Satellite Centre at Sangrur on October 10, in with some senior members of the Union government, including the minster for health and some other senior leaders of the ruling party were taking part."
Badal pointed out that the proposal for setting up this Satellite Centre of PGIMER in Punjab had been personally initiated by him in October 2012.
The state government had identified a suitable piece of land for it in Sangrur.
Later, he along with Union Health Secretary, Director, PGIMER, and state government’s officers had also visited the site, said Badal.
Badal said he had personally urged the Union health ministry to accord approval to this project and with continuous efforts and persistent follow-up by the state government it had been approved.
"Keeping in view the importance and the necessity of the project, the state government had always moved fast and ensured timely handing over of the site to the Union health ministry," he said.