Chandigarh, August 11
Questioning the former AAP leader’s motives in instigating legislators to quit over the Bargari issue, several Punjab Ministers have ridiculed the resignation drama of HS Phoolka as a stunt aimed at hogging public limelight amidst his dwindling political presence in the state.
Phoolka had on Saturday asked all MLAs who had raised the Bargari issue in the Assembly to resign. In a joint statement here on Sunday, Punjab Cabinet Ministers Tripat Bajwa, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Sukbinder Singh Sarkaria and Gurpreet Singh Kangar lashed out at Phoolka for his senseless and provocative demand for the resignation of the legislators.
These ministers said if Phoolka was genuinely concerned about the issue and its implications, he should have returned the Padma Shri awarded to him by the very government which had pressurised the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into filing a closure report in the sensitive Bargari case, which every Sikh wanted to see ending in severe punishment for the perpetrators.
Resigning from the House and asking other MLAs to do the same was just an attempt by Phoolka to divert public attention away from the progress made by the Congress government in the state to take the Bargari and related cases to their logical conclusion, they said.
Further, the fact that Congress legislators were freely raising their concerns and asking questions from their own government showed the internal freedom allowed by the party and the respect accorded by the Captain Amarinder Singh government to the institution of the Vidhan Sabha, said the ministers in their statement. Phoolka obviously found it difficult to digest such transparency and openness in the Congress, they added.
Phoolka’s stand was ludicrous in the extreme, and designed to undermine the democratic institution of the Vidhan Sabha, said the ministers. The Assembly is a forum for open and frank discussions on all subjects by legislators irrespective of their political affiliation, they pointed out, adding that Phoolka’s suggestion was detrimental to the very ethos of this body.
The Ministers said it was obvious that Phoolka wanted to gain political mileage from the sensitive religious issue of sacrilege, and did not want the people of Punjab to hear the truth about the progress made by the government in bringing the culprits to book. Why else would he resign from the House and also want other MLAs to do the same, they asked, adding that if the former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader really had the best interests of the people at heart in the matter, he would actually encourage the legislators to question the state government and get the right answers.
The fact was that, in sharp contrast to the previous SAD-BJP regime, the Congress government had made significant progress in ensuring free, fair and impartial investigations in the Bargari and other related cases, said the ministers. The Captain Amarinder government, they recalled, had scrapped the Zora Commission and appointed the Justice (Retd) Ranjit Singh Commission to investigate the sacrilege cases soon after taking over. The fact-finding Commission’s report was presented before the Assembly, which had, by consensus, sought a SIT to take the cases to their logical conclusion, they added.
The Ministers further pointed out that the SIT, as part of its detailed and thorough investigations into the Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura firing cases, had already arrested four police personnel in each of these. The arrested cops included ex-SSP Charanjit Singh and ex-IG Paramjit Singh Umranangal. Former Akali MLA Mantar Brar has also been named an accused in the case by the SIT, which was close to completing its probe into the incidents, they added.
What is more, the Congress government was all set to challenge the CBI closure report in the Bargari case, which was quite evidently submitted under Akali pressure, said the ministers. The Akalis had persistently tried to scuttle the probe into these incidents and had resorted to all kind of delaying tactics after handing over three Bargari related cases to the CBI, which was clearly a farce to hide its own wrongdoings in the matter, they added.
Phoolka apparently did not want to acknowledge these facts or allow the people of Punjab to discover them, as it suited his political interests to mislead them on this important issue, said the ministers in their statement. The resignation drama was just the latest in the long line of antics resorted to by the former AAP leader to build a public image as a proponent and protector of the interests of the Sikh community, they said, adding that the people of Punjab had earlier seen through a similar gameplan of the Akalis and would easily see through Phoolka’s theatrics too.