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'Amarinder didn't quit, why should I?'

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March 12, 2007

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who was in New Delhi during the weekend, had a harrowing time pacifying the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders who were upset over his decision not to give water to Rajasthan.

Badal had couple of days ago said there was no water to be released from rivers in Punjab.

The BJP, which is an ally in the Badal government in Punjab, was taken aback with the statement and threatened to pull out of the government.

Badal sought to play down the comments and declared that the rise of the saffron party in Punjab was the best thing that has happened in recent years.

Apart from the teething problems in the coalition, Badal also has to fend off critics after a Ropar court ordered the framing of charges against him and his family.

Senior Associate Editor Onkar Singh caught up with the chief minister of Punjab to speak about his stormy first fortnight in office.

The Congress has demanded your resignation after the framing of charges against you?

I am not quitting. I have just returned to power and the people of the state have rejected the charges of disproportionate wealth charges against my family and me.

Many ministers in the United Progressive Alliance have been charge sheeted but they have not resigned. So why should I resign? Both my son and I have filed criminal and civil cases against Amarinder Singh and charges were framed, but he did not resign.

The Congress government of Captain Amarinder Singh maintains that you have looted the state exchequer to the tune of Rs 3,500 crore. Comment.

The former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has been alleging that I have accumulated Rs 3,500 crores during my term as chief minister. For four years they went on hunting but could not find the thousands of crores either in India or abroad.

So, how many crores are you worth now?

According to the income tax returns that we filed, our family property jointly stands at Rs 78 crore. This is all accounted for. We produced the evidence before the honourable court but the court said that we could produce it during the trial and not at this stage.

You said that Rajasthan will not get any water from Punjab. Do you stand by what you said on that day?

Water is national property. We are talking of the riparian law in this respect. Punjab must get its due share. Nobody should suffer, and that includes Rajasthan.

What is your stand on Satluj Yamuna canal?

The matter is before the court and I have nothing to add.

Will you order inquiry against Amarinder Singh?

I am not a vindictive person. But if there are any complaints against him we would certainly have them looked into and take whatever action necessary.

Are you happy with your performance in the elections?

I would not say that I am happy. We should have done better in the Malva region. We would have to find reasons for our bad performance and try to regain our stronghold.

Are you happy with the rise of the BJP?

I am the happiest man because of the rise of the BJP in Punjab. This is the best thing that has happened in the state.

Are you planning to do something about the rise of the religious deras with political influence, like say the Sacha Sauda?

No comments.

You have met President Kalam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and senior BJP leaders including former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Any special mission?

No there is nothing special. I am making courtesy calls. It is customary that I should call on President Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after assuming the office of the chief minister. I have come to thank the BJP leaders Vajpayee, L K Advani and Rajnath Singh.

Have you asked for any economic package from the prime minister?

We have asked for industrial concessions on the lines of what is offered in the state of Himachal Pradesh, the setting up of a defence university in Punjab, raising the maximum support price for wheat from Rs 750 to Rs 900 per quintal and the setting up of an international airport near Ludhiana.

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