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Kicking it up a notch: Parties take to theatrics over Satluj-Yamuna issue in Punjab

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 12 November 2016, 13:33 IST

Punjab's political theatre continues to witness a lot of drama by various parties and leaders on the issue of sharing the state's river waters after the blow received from the Supreme Court on Thursday.

Key political players have started going that extra mile to play to the gallery knowing that sharing of the river waters along with the Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) canal would be one of the prime emotive issues in the forthcoming Assembly polls.

Hence, the Congress, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP combine and new entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are trying to send across the message that they are the most committed to the cause of the state.

Starting it off

Friday began with the Congress under Captain Amarinder Singh announcing an action plan to protest against the Parkash Singh Badal government's failure to protect the interests of Punjab on the SYL issue, as party MLAs, shouting slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Badal, formally tendered their resignations from the state Assembly.

Since the Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal failed to turn up at his office, the Congress MLAs finally handed over their resignations to the Assembly secretary. Congress leaders claimed that an independent MLA Rajnish Babbi has also tendered his resignation to support the Congress campaign.

Amarinder disclosed that he had received the resignations from all the Congress MPs from Punjab on Thursday itself but in the interest of the SYL matter had decided not to forward them to the concerned authorities in the Parliament.

He made it clear that he himself had advised the MPs to stay firmly put in the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha, as the case may be, in order to fight for the rights of the people of Punjab in the House.

And more plans

Continuing with their aggressive politics, party leaders have decided to burn effigies of Badal in all the 117 assembly segments of the state on Saturday.

On Sunday, the Congress has planned a rally at Abohar - the tail-end of the SYL canal - to highlight the Akalis' mishandling of the case in the court, causing untold misery to the people of Punjab.

The Congress Legislative Party (CLP) has also decided to seek an appointment with the President of India to apprise him of the problems that will be faced by the people of Punjab as a result of the court's verdict.

The CLP has also demanded that another tribunal be set up to assess the amount of water to which the state currently has access. It has reiterated that under the international riparian principles, Haryana has no right to Punjab's river waters.

Announcing the CLP decisions, Amarinder once again said that his party will go to the people on the issue and seek two third majority in order to be able to come out with the requisite legislation to give them justice.

Congress MP Ambika Soni said, "We have all been told to fight for the cause of Punjab in Parliament."

Amarinder continued with his attack on the Akalis, particularly the Badals (Parkash and his deputy Sukhbir) saying they are trying to divert public attention from their gross failure by making baseless charges against the Congress.

"If they are so concerned about the impact of the SYL verdict on Punjab why have the Akali MPs not resigned their parliamentary seats?" asked Amarinder.

Saying that Akali MPs Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, Prem Singh Chandumajra and Sher Singh Ghubaya should immediately quit their parliamentary seats to prove their interest in resolving the SYL matter in the interest of Punjab, he said, "Until they do that, they really have no face to make allegations against others."

Not sparing AAP national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the Congress chief questioned his continued silence on the issue even 24 hours after the Supreme Court verdict, terming it inexplicable.

"Tell us clearly, Mr. Kejriwal, are you with Punjab or with Haryana and Delhi on the SYL issue? Will you, or will you not, allow Punjab's water to go to Haryana and Delhi?" he demanded.

Upping the ante

The Akalis too have decided to raise the pitch of their belligerence on the issue. Having convened a special Assembly session on 16 November, the Akali leadership is firing salvos at its opponents.

In a frontal attack on the Congress leadership, Badal has said that Amarinder and his colleagues are trying to become martyrs by 'smearing blood on their fingers' as they tender resignations just before the Assembly polls.

On the sidelines of a summit on 'Sustainable Development Goals and Universal Health Coverage- States perspective' at Mohali, he underlined, " Had Amarinder been sincere and honest he would have announced that he was not going to contest the forthcoming Assembly polls. Instead, he is pitching for President's Rule in the state for paving a smooth way for the completion of the SYL canal in the absence of any democratically elected people's government."

He said the SAD-BJP alliance would oppose this anti-Punjab decision of the apex court as Punjab has absolute and legitimate right over the river waters as per universally accepted riparian principle.

Holding the Congress solely responsible for aggravating the impending crisis beyond anyone's imagination, Badal reiterated that not even a single drop of water would be spared for any state and neither anyone would allow to lay even a single brick for the construction of the SYL canal.

His party has asked Amarinder why he did not resign as MP when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had come to Kapoori to start excavation work on SYL canal in 1982? "Had he resigned at that time the situation would not have reached this stage," said SAD secretary Dr Daljit Singh Cheema.

Cheema said the people of Punjab understand the history and reality of injustices done to the state by successive Congress leaders and will not forgive the Congress throughout their life.

There are reports saying that Badal too has sought an appointment with the President on the issue.

And AAP throws in its moves

Meanwhile, the AAP leadership began its indefinite dharna against the Supreme Court verdict at Kapoori village in Patiala where Indira Gandhi had laid the foundation stone of the SYL carrier channel on 8 April 1982.

The AAP leadership has been saying that the Congress and the SAD have always kept the interests of Punjab as hostage to grab power. While it was the Congress which laid the foundation stone of SYL Canal, SAD carried it forward by beginning the construction.

AAP state convener Gurpreet Singh Waraich has dared Amarinder to ask Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi to clear his stand on the issue.

"It is unfortunate that Rahul Gandhi has hailed the opinion of Supreme Court on SYL issue which went against Punjab. And on the other hand, his party MLAs have resigned from Punjab assembly," Waraich said while quipping at the 'double standards" of the Congress.

Training his guns on Badal, he said, "It is better that Badal clarify his stand on the role of BJP on the SYL issue, as it took an anti-Punjab stand in the Supreme Court. If Badal, who claims to be the champion protector of Punjab's rights, is serious this time, he should severe his political ties with the BJP and instruct his daughter-in-law Harsimrat Kaur Badal to immediately resign from the Modi cabinet."

Party in-charge of Punjab Sanjay Singh also upped the ante by saying,"State BJP chief Vijay Sampla should explain what is his party's stand on SYL issue. Whether Modi would ensure that there will be no injustice with Punjab or will he (Sampla) make Haryana Chief Minster Manohar Lal Khattar understand the actual availability of water in Punjab?"

Supreme Court lawyer and senior AAP leader HS Phoolka hit out at the Badals saying,"Let Badal use his political influence and make Modi understand the impact of construction of SYL canal."

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 12 November 2016, 13:33 IST