New Delhi: Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Saturday accused Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi of encouraging divisive forces to create disturbances in the state. The Congress rubbished the allegation, saying Badal was trying to hide the failures of the Shiromani Akali Dal state government.
Addressing a press conference here, Badal accused the Congress of encouraging "radical" elements to create disturbances in Punjab, and demanded that the party be derecognised and declared "anti-national".
Rubbishing the allegation, the Congress leadership dared Badal to book them for sedition if he had proof of their alleged link with anti-national elements.
Congress leader and former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh hit back with a point-by-point rebuttal and said "it was controlled destabilisation (by the SAD-led government) that has gone out of control".
Badal on Saturday led an Akali Dal delegation to President Pranab Mukherjee and alleged that Rahul Gandhi had played a very dangerous role during his visit to Punjab and "had given encouragement to divisive forces".
"We requested the president to declare the Congress an anti-national party as it was working against the unity of the country," said Badal.
He also accused Gandhi of "organising" rallies along with secessionist organisations.
The party referred to the November 10 "Sarbat Khalsa" gathering in Tarn Taran and alleged that the Punjab Congress had teamed up with separatist groups to organise it.
Badal accused Gandhi of "turning a blind eye to Congress leaders extending overt and covert support" to those engaged in radical politics in the state.
He claimed the Congress was trying to take Punjab back to its dark days and playing a dangerous game for political gains.
"It is encouraging and supporting radical and secessionist activities in the border state," Badal said, adding that Punjab had paid a very heavy price during the militancy in the 1980s and early 90s.
"The Congress helped plan the (November 10) gathering, provided logistic support and was also part of the team which drafted the secessionist resolutions which were read out on the occasion," he said.
On the recent sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib -- the holy book of the Sikhs -- which led to widespread disturbances in Punjab, Badal suspected a conspiracy including the involvement of a foreign hand.
He said the matter has been handed over to the CBI as it needed a wider probe.
Amarinder Singh, who is the MP from Amritsar as well as the Congress deputy leader in Lok Sabha, launched a sharp attack on Badal, saying he was trying to hide the "failures of his own government to maintain law and order".
He said 12,000 acres of cotton crop in the state was destroyed due to supply of "spurious seeds and pesticides", many farmers had committed suicide and youth were without jobs.
He said the Congress was "right on top" in the state and if elections were held today, the Akali Dal will find it difficult to campaign.
He said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had destroyed the Constitution and was arrested for it.
Rebutting the allegations against Rahul Gandhi, Amarinder Singh said the Congress leader had gone to meet people who had suffered in police firing.
"He came to lead us. What is the connection of Rahul Gandhi and Amarinder Singh with Sarbat Khalsa?" he asked.
"The Congress has always maintained a secular image. It has held its own against terrorism," he said.
He said the CBI probe ordered by the government had left out the reasons why there was police firing, and demanded a probe by a sitting judge of the high court.
"Who ordered police firing? You will find that the order came from Badal... (It was) controlled destabilisation that has gone out of control," he said.
Referring to the sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib, he said it brought about a feeling of anger among people and accused Punjab Police of dealing harshly with a gathering in Moga district last month that led to killing of two people in police firing.
Amarinder Singh said police action aggravated the situation further.
He said people did not go to the Sarbat Khalsa as part of the Khalistani movement.
The Congress leader also said the gathering was dominated by organisers who were "hot headed" but IPS officer Simranjit Singh Mann, a separatist leader, was not allowed to speak from the stage.
He said two Congress leaders -- Ramanjit Singh Sikki and Inderjit Singh Zira -- attended the gathering in their individual capacity.