Updated: May 30, 2022 11:02:14 am
Soon after the public sacking of Punjab health minister and Mansa MLA Vijay Singla for alleged corruption, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government headed by Bhagwant Singh Mann finds itself in another political firestorm over the killing of popular singer Shubhdeep Singh Moosewala, days after it withdrew his security cover.
Coming a month after the violence in Patiala between workers of a Shiv Sena faction and alleged pro-Khalistan activists, and weeks after a rocket attack on the Punjab Police’s intelligence headquarters in Mohali, Moosewala’s killing gives more ammunition to the Opposition that has been accusing the AAP government of political inexperience. Slogans against the Mann government rent the air as Moosewala’s body reached the hospital at Mansa, the heart of Malwa belt of Punjab where AAP swept 66 of the 69 Assembly seats in the elections held earlier this year.
As police chief Viresh Kumar Bhawra called it the result of an inter-gang rivalry, the spotlight is once again on the law and order situation in the state. Police investigations into the blast at the Mohali intelligence headquarters point to a growing nexus among gangsters, terror elements and forces from across the border, which doesn’t bode well for a state that spent a decade in the shadow of militancy not very long ago.
The withdrawal of security to a large number of priests and heads of deras on Saturday — the police said it was done to beef up forces in the run-up to the Operation Bluestar anniversary on June 6 — left the government with egg on the face when Akal Takht acting Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh, whose security was first withdrawn and then restored, all in the space of a day, rebuffed the government. The move came days after Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann took to social media to chide Giani Harpreet Singh, head of the temporal seat of the Sikhs, for suggesting that they should get arms licences.
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While Congress had backed Mann on this issue, Moosewala’s killing has given it a fresh handle with leaders saying it exposes the fragile law and order situation in the state.
Congress leaders called it a political killing, with state Congress chief Raja Amrinder Warring demanding the registration of an FIR against the DGP and SSP Mansa, alleging they were part of the conspiracy to eliminate Moosewala.
Leader of Opposition Partap Bajwa called for the resignation of the CM, since he also holds the Home portfolio.
Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal asked whether “the cheaply populist decision to withdraw Moosewala’s security’’ was responsible for the tragedy.
While it is tempting for the government to dismiss this killing as one-off, the result of an inter-gang rivalry, the insecurity it generates is far-reaching. Also, no one wants the state to be run over by gangs once again. There were around 10 major gangs in Punjab when the Congress government came to power in 2017, but it was successful in neutralising most of them. Of late, they have been rearing their head again and criminals claiming allegiance to the jailed Lawrence Bishnoi and others have been found involved in many incidents in the region.
Historically, Punjab is not an easy state to govern, more so when so many forces would like to see this government fail. Much before AAP came to power in the state, leaders of traditional parties would often try to run it down as a disruptor and a political novice that would be unable to keep peace in the state. The AAP government has to fight this bogey even if it means shoring up its intelligence and working on the double on all fronts without always succumbing to the temptation of playing to the gallery.
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