Akalis retain power in Punjab, lawlessness dents their image

2012 began on a positive note for the ruling SAD-BJP combine as it retained power but conviction of three Cabinet ministers in various cases.

Chandigarh: 2012 began on a positive note for the ruling SAD-BJP combine as it retained power but conviction of three Cabinet ministers in various cases and Akali leaders brush with law dented SAD`s image in the eventful year.

The Shiromani Akali Dal in alliance with the BJP made history by overcoming anti-incumbency to retain power for the second consecutive term. 84-year-old Parkash Singh Badal was sworn-in as the chief minister for a record fifth time.

The joy, however, was short lived as the government had to face embarrassment after three of its ministers were convicted by courts in different cases.

The first casualty for the Akalis was when its only woman minister Bibi Jagir Kaur had to resign after she was convicted and sentenced to five year imprisonment by a CBI court for plotting forcible abortion and abduction of her daughter who died nearly 12 years back. Towards the end of the year she got a reprieve after the Punjab and Haryana high court enlarged her on bail.

Another minister Tota Singh was held guilty in a case by a Mohali court in May for misusing official vehicle during 1997-2002 when he was education minister in the Akali regime. After his conviction, Singh submitted his resignation.

In September, after sustained pressure over embezzlement of government grants, senior Akali leader Gulzar Singh Ranike had to resign from the Cabinet citing "moral grounds". He was in the eye of a storm over his alleged involvement in irregularities of border area development programme funds through bogus accounts in Attari constituency.

Despite political blows, the SAD-BJP combine seemed to continue enjoying people`s faith as in a by-poll to Dasuya assembly seat in July, caused due to death of BJP MLA Amarjit Singh Sahi, his widow Sukhjit Kaur drubbed Congress rival Arun Dogra by a huge margin.

The alliance also swept municipal corporation polls in the state`s four largest cities -- Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Patiala.

After repeated drubbing, Punjab Congress leaders made an unsuccessful attempt to get its state chief Amarinder Singh removed. The party, however, elevated Abohar MLA Sunil Kumar Jakhar as its legislative party leader in place of the more senior Rajinder Kaur Bhattal as part of its efforts to "revamping" its Punjab unit.

Akali leaders several brushes with law caught the party on the wrong foot.

A police officer was shot dead in public allegedly by an Akali leader in Amritsar after he stopped him and his accomplices from passing lewd remarks and obstructing the way of his daughter towards the end of the year. Barely days after the incident, another Akali village head allegedly abducted a youth from a village in Amritsar and thrashed him to death.

There was wide public outrage at Faridkot in October after a 15-year-old minor was abducted by a man believed to be close to Akalis, at gunpoint from her house. The girl was later traced with the boy in Goa but before that Congress left no opportunity to accuse Akali government of failing to control law and order in the state and "inappropriately" handling the case.

In the middle of the year, Ludhiana Municipal Commissioner Malvinder Singh Jaggi was suspended after he was found guilty of gross misuse of power in demolishing the shop of a vegetable vendor who did not "attend" to his wife properly.

Towards the beginning of the year, in a sensational double murder case, Moga DSP Balraj Singh Gill was hacked to death along with a woman at Ludhiana.

At the beginning of the summer season, Punjab was in the grip of a saffron wave in support of former Chief Minister Beant Singh`s assassin Balwant Singh Rajoana with a total bandh in favour of clemency to him.

Chief Minister Badal had to make a statement on the floor of the assembly that the government will not hang Rajoana, citing legal infirmities, constitutional inconsistencies and jurisdictional issue.

It was a momentous moment for Punjab when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurated the Rs 21,500 crore Guru Gobind Singh refinery at Phulokheri village. The country`s first Integrated Check Post also came up at Attari in April.

June saw the release of 70-year-old Surjeet Singh from a Pakistan jail.

A pall of gloom descended over Punjab after ace comedian, satirist and film producer Jaspal Bhatti died in a freak road mishap it Jalandhar in October while he was travelling for the promotion of his film `Power Cut`, which was a take on the state`s "dismal" power scenario.

Besides, a building collapse in Jalandhar in April left around 15 labourers dead.

A state government commissioned survey found that as many as 500 farmers commit suicide in Punjab in a year or three suicides every two days in the agrarian bowl of India due to financial crunch.

With deficient monsoon jacking up input costs, Punjab farmers stared at a crisis. A rising demand for diesel for irrigation had put the input cost up by Rs 8,000 an acre forcing the state government to ask Centre to grant a Rs 800 crore interim package plus 1000 Mega Watt additional power.

When the Union council of ministers was expanded in October, Ashwani Kumar (law and justice), Pawan Kumar Bansal (Railways) and Manish Tewari (I&B) found place.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a whirlwind tour of state during which he visited the holy Anandpur Sahib gurudwara and dined at a dhabha in Chandigarh.