‘Sanjay, Zail responsible for Punjab mess’

A book on Congress makes critical observations on "dirty politics" in the name of religion in Punjab.

New Delhi: Former President Giani Zail
Singh`s role during his tenure as Punjab Chief Minister has
been criticised as also that of Sanjay Gandhi for the Punjab
crisis of the 80s in a book on Congress.

The fifth volume of the series A Centenary History of
the Indian National Congress
makes critical observations on
"dirty politics" in the name of religion in Punjab that it
concluded was one of the factors for terrorism and the
Khalistan agitation in Punjab.

"Dirty politics and the use of religion for political
ends clearly boomeranged on the Akali and Congress leadership
with diastrous consequences for the Sikh community and the
Indian state" the book says commenting on the situation in the
aftermath of the Operation Blue Star.

Noting that Congress emerged as the single largest
party in the state assembly in the 1972 elections and formed a
government headed by Zail Singh, the book says, "by
introducing a reilgious tone to Punjab politics, Giani
succeeded to a great extent in weakening the Akalis. But the
result--growing communalisation of provincial politics--was
The book notes that Zail Singh organised one of the
biggest religious processions "in order to secure Sikh votes
for Congress".

In the chapter "Indira Gandhi: An Overview" the book
says that Zail Singh, who was Congress Chief Minister of
Punjab in the 1970s - and first Home Minister in Indira`s 1980
cabinet and later still the country`s President - had
"unwisely" but ostensibly "tried to steal Akalis`s clothes" by
pandering heavily to religious sentiments of Sikhs."

"Zail Singh, in complete collaboration with Sanjay,
picked up a relatively obscure young and fundamentalist lay
preacher named Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale with a view to
building him up as a rival to the Akali leadership.
"It is inconceivable that they could have done so
without Indira Gandhi`s consent. Sanjay and Zail Singh
believed that by advocating extremist causes, the young
preacher could embarrass the Akali Dal. Precisely the reverse
happened. Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale originally planted by
Giani Zail Singh to weaken the Akalis, had outgrown his
shoes," the book said.

Congress has, however, distanced itself from the views
expressed in the book, saying there is no official book about
the party`s history.

Party spokesman Manish Tewari has stressed that the
book, brought out by a group of editors, headed by senior
party leader Pranab Mukherjee, has two disclaimers.

"In no circumstances, Congress subscribes to these
views," Tewari said. The volume brought out to commemorate 125
years of the organisation narrates and analyses a wide variety
of issues, which affected the Congress and in turn impinged on
the national issues.

In the preface to the book, Mukherjee noted that
Congress desired the volume to be edited and contributed by
experts in order to generate an "objective and scholarly
perspective for the period under review" and "not necessarily
have a party perspective".


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