Chandigarh: Words like `coward`, `betrayer`, `mole`, `liar`, `medieval monarch` and `senile` may not form the most politically-correct vocabulary. But leading politicians in Punjab are competing to outdo opponents with the choicest of epithets against each other.
In the run-up to elections to the 117-member assembly, scheduled for February-March next year, leaders of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and the opposition Congress are adding more words to their daily vocabulary, some bordering on expletives.
In recent weeks, Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh has called Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal a "coward" and a "selfish" leader "who betrayed the cause of Punjab" for his personal gains.
The Badal camp, led by the chief minister as well as his son Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also Akali Dal president, has reciprocated, calling Amarinder a "liar", "the worst Trojan Horse", a "mole" and one whose "morality" cannot be commented upon.
It is a different matter that for nearly a decade, Badal and Amarinder were on the same side -- in the Akali Dal.
When Amarinder questioned Badal on political morality, the chief minister said: "He is a fine one to talk about morality. I never use words like moral turpitude, but on Amarinder`s `morality`, I do not even need to comment. The whole world knows how `moral` a life he is leading. And he talks about morals. I am amused."
Amarinder recently said: "Badal is a coward. That is why he did not go to sign the Rajiv (Gandhi)-Longowal Accord with Harchand Singh Longowal and S.S. Barnala. Had he accompanied them, the dark era of terrorism (in Punjab) would not have prevailed that long and we would not have lost 35,000 lives. Selfish leaders like Badal betrayed him (Longowal)."
Amarinder, who used to earlier call Sukhbir Badal a "baloongra" (kitten), now says he is "day-dreaming" of ruling Punjab for 25 years.
"Sukhbir is dreaming to rule for another 25 years but he should feel lucky if his party survives for another 25 months after it gets defeated in elections," Amarinder said.
On the promises being made to the people in Punjab by the Badal government, Amarinder says these promises, made at the fag-end of the government`s term, were just "castles in the air" which will never get implemented.
Ridiculing Sukhbir, he says: "Good that you have at least learnt the art of power point presentation, but it would be better if you learnt the art of implementation as well."
The Akali Dal leaders have accused Amarinder of "suffering from amnesia" for opposing land acquisition for a thermal plant in Punjab`s Mansa district, reminding him that his government (2002-07) forcibly acquired land near Barnala to hand over to textiles and towels group Trident.
Senior Badal`s `Sangat Darshan` (meeting the public) programmes too have been described by Amarinder as "a primitive way of distributing funds" which had even been objected to by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India as "squandering away of the money".
On senior Badal`s recent night stays in villages to connect with people, Amarinder Singh, who calls him a "leader on the verge of senility", chided him: "Better be awake for a while with them than spend a full night sleeping in their villages. If you could not get the feel in 70 years of your political career, you can`t get it now."
In a recent article in India Today , Amarinder launched a scathing attack on the Badal government.
"Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, oblivious to events in his state, continues as a modern-day Nero, fiddling while the state of Punjab is engulfed in the greatest tragedy of our times," Amarinder wrote.
Badal`s son, Sukhbir, replied in the next issue of the magazine: "Perhaps, Amarinder is left with no option but to follow Hitler`s information minister, Goebbels, who famously said that a lie told a hundred times becomes a truth. But he is perhaps oblivious to the fact that you can fool some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."