Chandigarh, November 3, 2023: As per media reports, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Friday asked Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann to apologise for his “malicious statements” against his father Parkash Singh Badal during a “sham debate”. The chief minister should tender his apology within 10 days or be ready to face a criminal defamation case, he said.
According to the news published in The Tribune with PTI inputs, during an “open debate”—‘Main Punjab Bolda Haan’—on Wednesday, which was skipped by opposition parties, Mann had targeted the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Congress over the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue, alleging that they compromised the state’s interests in the matter.
It is a well-known fact that they had indulged in the “unpardonable crime” of constructing the canal for their vested interests, he had said and had claimed that Punjab has no spare water to share with any other state, including Haryana.
Sukhbir Badal said during the “one-man monologue” that “was boycotted by the entire opposition”, Chief Minister Mann indulged in character assassination by claiming that former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had arrived at a quid pro quo by increasing the height of the Bhakra Main Line canal in 1998 in return for creation of an irrigation branch to carry water to the Badal farm in Balasar village in Haryana.
This is furthest from the truth, Sukhbir Badal said in a statement here. Devi Lal became the chief minister of Haryana for the first time in 1977 and the Balasar branch came into being in February 1964, he claimed.
SAD president said that the Balasar branch was part of the Bani branch which itself was part of the Panjoana branch of the Bhakra canal system.
The SAD president also challenged Mann to show one letter Parkash Singh Badal had written to the Centre calling for early construction of the SYL canal when in jail during the Emergency.
“This attempt to tarnish the image of Mr Badal, who fought Emergency resolutely, will not be tolerated and Mr Bhagwant Mann will be held to account for his malicious statements,” Sukhbir Badal said. He asked Mann to tender an apology within 10 days or be ready to face a criminal defamation suit.
The chief minister had earlier also tried to defame the Badal family by alleging that it had been granted land in Gurugram for a hotel in return for agreeing to construct the SYL canal, Sukhbir Badal said, asserting that “this is also a blatant lie”.
Bhagwant Mann was the only speaker at the event held at the Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana.
Mann had dared opposition leaders for the open debate on issues concerning the state, including the SYL canal matter.
He had said former prime minister Indira Gandhi vide a notification dated March 24, 1976, divided the Ravi-Beas waters between Punjab and Haryana in the ratio of 50:50 in a forcible manner, which was against the interests of Punjab.
The then chief minister Giani Zail Singh (a Congress leader) ignored the interests of Punjab and acted as a “puppet” of the Union government, and on November 16, 1976, he also received a cheque of Rs 1 crore and accelerated the construction of the SYL canal, Mann had alleged.
In 1978, the then chief minister Parkash Singh Badal (the late SAD patriarch) had demanded Rs 3 crore more for the SYL canal, and also took Rs 1.50 crore from the Haryana government in March 1979, he had claimed.
Mann also claimed that Badal had issued a letter for the acquisition of land for the SYL canal. The then Haryana chief minister Devi Lal (an INLD leader) had even made a statement in the state assembly that due to his personal relation with Parkash Singh Badal, the Punjab government acquired the land for the canal, the AAP leader had claimed.
In 1981, a white-paper on the Ravi-Beas agreement was brought out, highlighting the benefits of the SYL canal by the Congress government, he had said.
He had also claimed that in 1998, Parkash Singh Badal, who was the chief minister at that time too, raised the height of the banks of the Bhakra Main Line canal by an average one feet with the intention of giving more water to Haryana and took Rs 45 crore from Haryana for this purpose.
Parkash Singh Badal did this “sin” only for the sake of building the ‘Balasar canal’ which was constructed till his farmhouse by the Haryana government as a reward for his “treachery” with Punjab, alleged Mann.
It Is evident from this, that the then SAD government was “betraying” the interests of the people of Punjab as personal interests were preferred over those of the public, he had said.
With opposition party leaders of the Congress, the SAD and the BJP skipping the open debate.