Manpreet sacked as Punjab Finance Minister, slams Badal Jr
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Last Updated: Thursday, October 14, 2010, 00:15
Chandigarh: Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal was today sacked by his uncle and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, a day after he was suspended from Akali Dal, following a raging row with the ruling alliance over his stand on the Centre's reported debt waiver offer to the state.

An official statement said Manpreet(48) was "dropped" as Finance Minister by Badal on charges of persistent acts of indiscipline and opposing the publicly endorsed "pro-people" policies of the party and the government.

Sources close to Manpreet, however, claimed he had sent his resignation soon after his suspension.

Manpreet targeted his cousin and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, accusing him of "misleading" people and "denigrating" his character. But, the son of the Chief Minister said no individual was above the party.

The sack came within hours after the Chief Minister was discharged from PGI hospital where he was admitted last week following a fall in a staircase.

"Consequent upon the decision of the disciplinary committee of SAD to suspend Manpreet Singh Badal from primary membership of the party following his persistent acts of indiscipline and opposing the publicly endorsed pro-people policies of the party and the government, the Chief Minister today dropped Manpreet Singh from the Punjab Cabinet," the statement said.

The dropping of the senior minister, who is also a member of the Badal clan, is being seen as a signal to the members of the nine-decade old SAD to toe the party line of Sukhbir Singh Badal as the action was reported be mainly to the differences between the two cousins.

The official statement said that after Manpreet's suspension from the party, his continuance as a member of the Council of Ministers had become "constitutionally, morally and politically untenable."

"The Chief Minister took this decision to honour the wishes and unanimous decision of the party", it said.

Manpreet, who has been having sharp differences with the ruling SAD-BJP alliance over the debt waiver offer issue, targeted Sukhbir saying "Its not Akali Dal in which I grew up, its Sukhbir's Dal".

Hitting out at Sukhbir for his alleged indifferent style of functioning as compared with that of his father Parkash Singh Badal, an emotional Manpreet told reporters at his official residence here that "I have not left Akali Dal...this is not the Akali Dal in which I grew up...(now) its Sukhbir's Akali Dal."

Sukhbit on his part said no individual was above the party. "In a democratic set up, it is the party that runs the show," he said.

Centre has reportedly offered to waive Rs 35,000 crore of the state's Rs.70,000 crore debt with certain conditions like reducing subsidies on power to the agriculture sector and levying user charges in some service areas.

Manpreet has been demanding that the Punjab government do away with subsidies and freebies like free power to farmers to pull the state out of the debt trap.

The Finance Minister was yesterday suspended from the party and served with a show cause notice seeking his reply by October 20 after the Disciplinary Committee of the party recommended his suspension.

I am extremely disturbed when they tried to denigrate my character especially when the Deputy Chief Minister tried to mislead people (over issue of debt waiver) which is uncalled for...," Manpreet, four-time MLA from Gidderbaha, said.

"Instead of seeking my resignation, I demand his resignation as party chief," he said, flanked by a few party MLAs and his father and former MP Gurdass Badal.

Meanwhile, talking to reporters after inaugurating a railway under-bridge at Bathinda, Sukhbir Badal said that the suspension of Manpreet from SAD was based on recommendations of the party's disciplinary committee.

Nobody is above the party as it is party that makes a leader, he said.

When asked about the loan waiver offer, he said "SAD from the very beginning is of the view that Centre must write off the debt without any condition as it was the result of long innings of President's rule during militancy coupled with heavy tax concessions to the adjoining hill states resulting in flight of capital from the state."

SAD's alliance partner BJP also did not support Manpreet in the current tussle even as the latter had been claiming that he was offered cooperation by senior members of the saffron party.


First Published: Thursday, October 14, 2010, 00:15

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