December 31, 2010 11:27:44 pm
The year 2010 that is sliding into history was witness to historic developments in Akali politics with an unprecedented revolt in the Badal clan. Manpreet Singh Badal,former finance minister and nephew of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal,parted ways from his party and government this year. The year also saw former Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh return as an MLA and state Congress president.
The year began with the chief minister and his nephew,Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal,differing on new power tariffs and subsidies. The row continued through the year leading to a parting of ways which may change the course of the states politics in the 2012 Assembly elections.
The conflict over power tariff and subsidies was resolved but it kept surfacing throughout the year,and culminated in Manpreet airing his views in the media about a debt waiver offer of Rs 35,000 crore which the Centre had reportedly offered but Punjabs political leadership was not willing to take due to conditions attached to it.
Already,there were murmurs in Akali political circles that Deputy Chief Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal could become chief minister. The rivalry between Sukhbir and his cousin Manpreet also fueled the fire. The party first suspended Manpreet and then expelled him from its membership,but on the floor of the house he remains an SAD MLA.
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The year also saw former Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh return on the political scene as he was catapulted as president of Punjab Congress party,thus silencing all critics. Also,Amarinder won his case in the Supreme Court and came back as a party MLA. He was removed by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha about two years ago in connection with the Amritsar Improvement Trust land scam. With Amarinder back in the saddle,there is a new enthusiasm in the party. He is also meeting everyone and keeping everyone in the party together,including senior party leaders.
Yatras have also turned out to be the flavour of the season in the last part of the year. Manpreet,Sukhbir and Punjab Youth Congress President Ravneet Singh Bittu have all been travelling across the state,which seems to have switched to election mode already. Not to be left behind,BJP leader and Industry and Local Bodies Minister,Manoranjan Kalia,has ruled out imposition of house tax for now,apparently eying the elections,as he candidly admitted that BJP can afford to impose such reforms in Gujarat,which had returned Narendra Modi for the third time,but not at this stage in Punjab.
The year saw Sukhbir Badal taking over the reins of the state and taking major decisions successfully in the absence of Chief Minister Badal,who was in the US tending to his ailing wife.
The year welcomed a new governor,Shivraj Patil,who took oath of office in January after expiry of the term of office of Gen SF Rodrigues (Retd). The long pending unbundling of Punjab State Electricity Board,too,happened in April 2010 when the Cabinet took a decision to bring about reforms in the electricity board to make it central electricity Act compliant. The board was split into two companies.
Punjab also worked overtime to ensure that the largest project funded by foreign direct investment (FDI) in the state,the Rs 18,900-crore Guru Gobind Singh Oil Refinery,Bathinda was ready to be commissioned by February 2011. However,this has stoked a fresh controversy with Amarinder Singh questioning the rationale behind giving VAT exemptions for 15 years to the refinery.
During the year,the Punjab chief minister remained locked in a dispute over sharing of river waters and royalty on the waters. Also,the states contribution to the Centres rice pool was sure to dip by at least six to seven per cent in view of devastating floods and preference by some farmers for Basmati plantation,which gives less yield per acre.
The year was not good for Punjab Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon,as he was booked by the CBI in an old case of recruitment of panchayat secretaries. The case dates back to the previous SAD-BJP regime from 1997 to 2002.
The major focus of the government this year was on administrative reforms. After ensuring 100 per cent computerisation of Sangrur and Barnala districts,the government has fixed the target for total computerisation of the states land record for March 31,2011. Major amendments in revenue records were also passed by the Cabinet in the 1855 revenue Act. The abolition of affidavits announced by the government was not properly implemented and the promise of registration of vehicles by dealers failed to make any headway resulting in transfer of the principal secretary (Transport).
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