PM Manmohan Singh to inaugurate Rs 21,500-crore Bathinda Refinery today,Capt Amarinder to stay away.
In a state where every occasion turns into a battle of political one-upmanship,this is one event where the Opposition is not complaining even as the ruling coalition is set to gain some political mileage by showcasing the Prime Minister.
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has invited,and got a confirmation,from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to inaugurate the Rs 21,500-crore Bathinda Refinery on April 28. This comes after the PM had accepted and then backtracked from inaugurating the Khalsa Heritage Complex in November last year,months ahead of the Assembly elections.
However,the Congress,which had then not taken favourably to Badals showcasing the PM to gain political mileage,is not complaining this time. Three Union ministers,including two from Punjab – Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni and Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur – besides Petroleum Minister Murli Deora would be attending the event.
Notably,state Congress president,Captain Amarinder Singh will not be present. Attributing his absence to personal meetings in New Delhi,Amarinder said the Bathinda refinery is a national project and the credit for conceiving it and bringing it to Punjab goes to the Centre.
It was conceived by the Union petroleum minister when I was the chief minister and has been executed with the Centres cooperation. It is only befitting that such a national project is inaugurated by the Prime Minister. I will be in New Delhi for some personal meetings and the ceremony would be attended by Leader of Congress Legislative Party,Sunil Jakhar, he said.
Earlier,in November last year,Amarinder had shot off a letter to the Prime Minister urging him not not to accept the invitation to inaugurate the Heritage Complex as he had already inaugurated it during his tenure as the CM.
As far as wooing the Sikh PM goes,Parkash Singh Badal was quick to warm up to him soon after he took charge in May 2004. Badal and his son,Sukhbir Badal,met PM to demand dismissal of Amarinder,the then Chief Minister,alleging that he and his son,Raninder Singh,were involved in illegal foreign exchange transactions. They also sought a probe by a central agency. After gaining power in Punjab,Badal met Manmohan several times over various demands. In sharp contrast,the Congress had scheduled just one public meeting of the prime minister in Punjab during polls.
Interestingly,while Badal wooed Manmohan,the ties between former CM,Amarinder,and the then Prime Minister AB Vajpayee were not as cordial. In January 2004,Amarinder had called on Vajpayee to reignite Punjabs trade ties with Pakistan and complain about the Ministry of External Affairs near refusal to his proposed visit to Lahore for a Punjabi conference scheduled in February. In March same year,during a rally in Punjab ahead of parliamentary elections,Vajpayee charged Amarinder with having no time to approach the Centre with the states genuine demands.
Vajpayee went on to say that the Amarinder had not sought any assistance from him so far. I had invited him for tea at his residence. But instead of accepting my invitation,the CM preferred to sit on dharna outside my residence, Vajpayee had then remarked.