Has state's politics become drug-laden? (Punjab Newsletter)
Punjab's politics has become drug-laden! Top political leaders from the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and the opposition Congress are openly accusing each other of being involved in a multi-billion dollar drug racket in the state.
At the centre of the raging controversy over the links of high-profile politicians with drug smugglers are Punjab's powerful Revenue Minister Bikram Singh Majithia and Punjab Congress president Pratap Singh Bajwa.
While the Congress leadership is openly accusing Majithia, brother-in-law of Punjab's powerful deputy chief minister and Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal, of being allegedly hand in glove with drug smugglers, the Akalis are trying to nail down Bajwa for his alleged links with the drug mafia for the past many years.
In one statement issued by former union minister and senior Akali Dal leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and others, Bajwa was charged with "speaking the language of a drug smuggler".
The controversy started after the comments of recently-arrested drug smuggler Jagdish Bhola alleging that some ministers in the Akali Dal government were closely associated with the drug mafia.
Bhola, a dismissed deputy superintendent of police and a former medal-winning international wrestler, was nabbed by the Punjab Police last October. The police, between last March and December, busted an international drug racket operating from the state involving high-end drugs like heroin and synthetic drugs like Ice. Nearly 40 arrests have been made so far.
The total seizures by the Punjab Police have crossed Rs.6,000 crore ($975 million).
Congress leaders have alleged that the state government of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal was shying away from a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the controversy to shield Majithia's links to the drug mafia. They have demanded that "the CBI probe must cover the NRI friends of Sukhbir Badal and Majithia, whose name figured during investigations but was not probed by the Punjab Police".
The Akali Dal leaders are not only drawing solace but even playing up a letter written earlier by former chief minister and senior Congress leader Amarinder Singh to Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Bajwa's alleged links to the drug mafia and terrorists.
Gandhi replaced Amarinder Singh, who has no love lost for Bajwa, as the state Congress chief last March last year. Amarinder Singh had openly opposed Bajwa's elevation saying: "I would have suggested a better name."
Akali Dal leaders are claiming that the tirade against Majithia and others is an orchestrated campaign by Bhola and Bajwa to divert attention from themselves.
"We understand that Bajwa and Bhola see a common enemy in the SAD-BJP. But one is shocked at the level to which the state president of a national party has fallen in his desperation born out of his political frustrations because of the widespread revolt against him on charges of selling party posts," senior Akali Dal leaders said.
Majithia, who is known to have rubbed many people the wrong way given his powerful stature in the state government, has defended himself by saying he is "ready for an impartial probe".
Sukhbir Badal has also gone on record about Bajwa's "shady and suspicious background" in relation to the drug mafia.
While the top politicians continue to indulge in personalised attacks over the drug links, the real issue of tackling the menace and the Punjab Police's recent efforts to bust the racket have completely taken a backseat. More than the mudslinging, these leaders should understand that they should join hands to rid the state, particularly its youth, of drugs.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 16-01-2014)