Manpreet sacked as Punjab Finance Minister, slams Badal Jr

Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal was Wednesday dismissed from the ministry headed by his uncle, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

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.


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