Former Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has said his government in 2004 had passed the state law terminating the Punjab’s water sharing pact with neighbouring states without consulting the Congress President Sonia Gandhi and had acutely upset her. An upset Sonia Gandhi did not meet him for full six months after his government passed the law to annul the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal water sharing pact with neighbouring states in 2004, revealed Capt Singh yesterday during launch of his authorised biography ‘The People’s Maharaja.’
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The Supreme Court last November had struck down the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004 as “unconstitutional,” making it clear that the state could not have taken a “unilateral” decision to abrogate the water sharing pact with Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi and Chandigarh.
Capt Singh said Sonia Gandhi had got upset with him because he, being the state CM of a Congress government, had not consulted the party high command over the sensitive issue.
“Mrs Gandhi wouldn’t see me. She didn’t see me for six months as the Chief Minister. The friends then told her either sack him (Amarinder) or see your CM. So, she eventually called me and, sitting across the table, asked me ‘why did you do this (passed the Termination Act)’. I said this was necessary for Punjab.
“Then she said why didn’t you ask me, to which I said had I asked you, would you have said yes. To this, she (Sonia) said no.. Then I told her I did it because it was in the interest of Punjab,” revealed Capt Singh.
Recounting his talks with Gandhi during his first meeting after a six-month hiatus following the passage of the radical law by Punjab assembly in 2004, the former chief minister said he told the Congress president that he passed the act because he did not want the Gandhi family to suffer further from the malady of terrorism.
“I said Punjab has been through terrible times (dark days of terrorism) and you (Sonia) have lost your husband (Rajiv) and your mother-in-law (Indira) to terrorism. And I don’t want you to lose your children as well to this,” revealed Capt Singh.
The former CM revealed about the rather surreptitious passage of the radical bill by his government during a debate after the launch of his biography authored by Chandigarh-based writer Khushwant Singh here yesterday
Singh made the revelations in reply to reporters’ queries on the Haryana’s Indian National Lok Dal’s threat to undertake digging of SYL canal in the territory of Punjab from Thursday.
While detailing how he got the law enacted, Capt Singh, the present Punjab Congress chief, claimed he got the bill passed in 2004 “to safeguard Punjab’s interests.”
“We (Congress) brought the Bill to the House (Punjab Assembly in 2004). I sent the Bill to (Parkash Singh) Badal (who was then in opposition) just an hour before our Cabinet had passed it. At 12 o’clock sharp, I introduced the Bill, by 2 o’clock the House unanimously approved it and we sent it to the Governor and he gave his assent,” Capt Singh said.
Continuing further, he said, “The poor old Governor thought the Congress government was moving the Bill and quickly gave his assent, though he also got sacked for it later. By 5 o’clock, it (the Termination of Agreements Act) had become the law (on the day the House passed it).”
Justifying the enactment of the now annulled law, Singh claimed ten lakh acres of land will go dry in Punjab if this canal is built and about six lakh families will go without food in that belt of Punjab, which has a history of falling prey to terrorism.
Capt Singh expressed concern that Haryana’s main opposition has given a call to dig the SYL canal by marching towards Punjab tomorrow.
Stating that the SYL issue had the potential to trigger the revival of terrorism in Punjab, Amarinder Singh warned that the militant organizations would exploit the “fragile situation” on the ground to further their “anti-India agenda if not checked immediately.”
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