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Monday, October 18, 2021

Gurkirat Kotli: Once haunted by the ghost of Katia molestation case, Beant Singh’s grandson gets Cabinet call

An arts graduate from Government College, Sector-11, Chandigarh, Kotli was tipped to contest polls for chief of Punjab Youth Congress in 2008, but couldn’t because of being overage by merely two or three months.

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana |
Updated: September 27, 2021 12:37:56 pm
Gurkirat Kotli, Kotli, Beant Singh, Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Katia molestation case, Indian express, Indian express news, Current affairs, Chandigarh newsGurkirat Kotli (File)

Grandson of former Punjab CM, late Beant Singh, Gurkirat Kotli (47), started his political career in 1992 as a Youth Congress leader.

An arts graduate from Government College, Sector-11, Chandigarh, Kotli was tipped to contest polls for chief of Punjab Youth Congress in 2008, but couldn’t because of being overage by merely 2 or 3 months, which were eventually contested and won by his cousin (father’s brother’s son) Ravneet Singh Bittu, who is now Lok Sabha MP from Ludhiana. Gurkirat had faced trial in the 1994 abduction and molestation of a French tourist Katia Darnand. He was acquitted in the case in 1999 after the victim had failed to testify against him and other accused.

He comes from the third generation of the Beant Singh family which has been active in Punjab politics since 1969 when Beant Singh won as an Independent from Payal of Ludhiana and became MLA for the first time.

Gurkirat’s father, Tej Parkash, was three-time MLA and former Cabinet minister. Last he was the transport minister in Captain Amarinder-led Punjab government from 2002-2007 and then MLA Payal from 2007-12.

In 1997, Tej Parkash had contested from Jalandhar Cantt and won, after Beant Singh’s assassination in 1995, from where Beant had won in 1992 and become Punjab’s CM.

Although his family’s ancestral village is Kotla Afghana in Payal constituency of Ludhiana from where Tej Parkash has been two-time MLA, Gurkirat contested his first Vidhan Sabha poll from Khanna constituency of Ludhiana after Payal was notified as ‘reserved’ constituency. He again won from Khanna in 2017.

Gurkirat’s younger brother, Harkirat Singh, had allegedly shot himself dead in 2016 due to some personal reasons.

The August 31, 1994 abduction, molestation and illegal confinement case of French national Katia Darnand has come to haunt Gurkirat Kotli time and again in which the victim had named him as one of the main accused. Even as the court had acquitted all seven accused in 1999, including five of Gurkirat’s friends and two Punjab Police cops, Katia had returned to France alleging that she was getting threats because she had identified the main accused. She never returned to testify against culprits, eventually leading to their acquittal in 1999. The incident had allegedly happened in Mohali. The victim had alleged that she feared for her safety as Gurkirat was the grandson of then CM Beant Singh and the case was not properly pursued allegedly due to the political pressure.

The case shot back to limelight in 2017 after the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) moved National Commission for Women (NCW) demanding re-investigation and retrial in the case and eventually a notice was issued to the government of Punjab and a reply was sought.

In 2017, immediately after coming to power, Amarinder Singh-led Congress government in Punjab had cleared government job for Beant Singh’s another grandson and Gurkirat’s cousin, Guriqbal Singh Honey, as DSP in Punjab Police on ‘compassionate grounds’, leading to another row.

While Gurkirat’s cousin, three-time MP Ravneet Singh Bittu, has been close to Captain Amarinder Singh in Punjab Congress, Kotli off-late had been batting for Navjot Singh Sidhu.

Kotli took oath as minister in CM Charanjit Singh Channi’s newly inducted cabinet Sunday. This will be his first stint as cabinet minister.

“Ours is the only family from Punjab which has been in active politics and being elected to Vidhan Sabha for third consecutive generations. My father has been three-time MLA and three-time Cabinet minister under different Congress governments. I am hoping to live up to my family’s legacy and grandfather’s supreme sacrifice which he made for Punjab,” says Gurkirat, known as “kaka ji” in political circles and his constituency Khanna.

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